Senate punts Zika fight to the fall

Greg Nash
Senate Democrats on Thursday blocked a deal to provide $1.1 billion to combat the Zika virus for a second time, effectively kicking the funding fight into September. 
 
Senators voted 52-44 on a procedural hurdle. Sixty votes were needed to move forward with the Zika money, which is attached to a larger military and veterans spending bill. 
 
{mosads}The vote comes as lawmakers are at a standstill over how to get the Zika proposal to President Obama’s desk before the summer recess. Senators are expected to leave Washington and start a seven-week recess later Thursday. 
 
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) filed cloture on the proposal after the vote, which will allow him to bring back up the Zika proposal later this year.
 
Democrats have balked at supporting the GOP deal because of how it’s paid for and a provision that blocks funding for Planned Parenthood. 
 
Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Republicans are currently in a “logic-free zone.” 
 
“The Republicans are choosing vacation over protecting pregnant women and their babies from these terrible birth defects that can be prevented,” he added from the Senate floor. 
 
Democrats blasted Republicans earlier Thursday for leaving town without tackling a host of issues, including Zika spending, gun control and new money for preventing opioid overdoses. 
 
Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) sent a letter to McConnell on Thursday asking him to delay the summer break until after they get an agreement on Zika funding. 
 
“Attached to this bill are several highly-partisan provisions that make the entire measure unpassable in its current form — regardless of how many times the Senate is forced to vote on it,” he wrote in the letter. “This political gamesmanship has to end.”

Instead, the GOP is pushing the Senate to pass, for a second time, a deal from Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.). It would also provide $1.1 billion to fight the virus. 

McConnell, however, has called that a non-starter, noting it won’t pass the House. Republicans have balked at the original Senate Zika agreement because it’s not paid for. 
 
He’s pressed Democrats for weeks to cave in the funding fight, arguing the conference deal — which has already passed the House — is currently the only way to get a bill to Obama’s desk. 
 
McConnell added Thursday that Democrats are putting “partisan politics before pressing issues like national security and Zika.” 
 
“This is a serious crisis that demands serious solutions. It’s time for our friends to start worrying less about pleasing outside political groups and start worrying more about actually helping the Americans who are counting on us,” he said. 
 
But the White House has pledged that the president would veto the current conference report, which would send lawmakers back to the negotiating table. 
 
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) blasted Democrats, saying in a statement that “playing politics with this crisis is shameful.” 

Updated at 3:05 p.m.

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