Overnight Healthcare: White House dips into Ebola funding for Zika

The White House on Wednesday agreed to repurpose some Ebola funds to ramp up their response to the Zika virus – but not without a fight.

Senior health and budget officials had previously dismissed dipping into the funding pool reserved for the Ebola virus to fight Zika, instead pushing Congress to approve new funding.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will ramp up "immediate, time-critical" efforts to stop the spread of the virus, which remains difficult to diagnose with no vaccines or treatments available.

ADVERTISEMENT

While announcing plans to move about $500 million toward Zika efforts, Obama's top health and budget leaders lashed out at Congress for ignoring their $2 billion funding request.

"We should not play with fire here. We should not risk spreading and getting out of control before Congress acts. They need to move immediately," Shaun DonovanShaun L. S. DonovanHouse Dems call on OMB to analyze Senate budget plan Overnight Finance: Dems turn up heat on Wells Fargo | New rules for prepaid cards | Justices dig into insider trading law GOP reps warn Obama against quickly finalizing tax rules MORE, director of the Office of Management and Budget, told reporters Wednesday.

Donovan declined to say how long the extra money would last in the fight against the Zika virus. But he said without more funding, U.S. health agencies would need to downsize their response "within months."

"There are real consequences and risks in waiting," Donovan said. Read more here: http://bit.ly/1SB7SjL

SENATE ADVANCES CURES BILLS: The Senate Health Committee on Wednesday advanced a final round of medical innovation bills, but the question of NIH funding is still up in the air.

Both sides expressed optimism they could work out a deal on how much mandatory NIH funding to provide and how to pay for it. The starting point for those negotiations is the House bill's number of roughly $9 billion over five years.

Lobbyists say they have seen more hopeful signs coming from the committee recently about the likelihood of a deal, though the funding issue remains unfinished.  

Chairman Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderThe Hill's Morning Report — AG Barr, GOP senators try to rein Trump in Overnight Defense: Senate votes to rein in Trump war powers on Iran | Pentagon shifting .8B to border wall | US, Taliban negotiate seven-day 'reduction in violence' The 8 Republicans who voted to curb Trump's Iran war powers MORE (R-Tenn.) said he and the top Democrat, Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurraySenate Dems blast Barr for 'clear violation' of duty in Stone case, urge him to resign Democratic senators ask FDA to ban device used to shock disabled students Lawmakers with first-hand experience using food stamps call on Trump not to cut program MORE (Wash.), are "making progress" toward a deal.

Alexander told The Hill on Monday a deal could come next week, though that is one of the more optimistic forecasts.

Read more here. http://bit.ly/1quOq1i

DID TRUMP SNUB ANTI-ABORTION GROUPS? Donald Trump on Wednesday failed to appear at a widely attended anti-abortion conference, days after drawing a rebuke from many of its attendees with comments about "punishing" women for abortions.

Trump was reportedly planning to address the gathering of anti-abortion leaders in D.C. by phone, but he did not dial in, according to the event's organizer, Priests for Life.

"He was invited but never confirmed," Leslie Palma, spokeswoman for Priests for Life, wrote in an email. Palma declined to say whether Trump's GOP rivals, Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzCruz 'impresses' his daughter with Chris Evans meeting Three Senate primaries to watch on Super Tuesday The advantage of paying for medical care directly MORE (R-Texas) or Ohio Gov. John Kasich, were also invited to attend. Read more here: http://bit.ly/1YftoOZ

ALLERGAN HITS WHITE HOUSE FOR CRUSHING MERGER: Allergan CEO Brent Saunders said Wednesday that the Treasury Department actions that led his pharmaceutical company and Pfizer to terminate their proposed merger are "a bit un-American."

"We built this deal around the law, regulations, all the notices that were put out by the Treasury, and it was a highly legal construct. We followed the rules that Congress had set for companies looking to move to a foreign domicile," Saunders said in an interview on CNBC.

"For the rules to be changed after the game has started to be played is a bit un-American, but that's the situation we're in," he said.

Treasury on Monday released guidance aimed at curbing corporate inversions, transactions in which U.S. companies reincorporate overseas after merging with foreign companies as a means of lowering their taxes. Pfizer is American and Allergan is Irish. The merged company would have had an Irish legal residence. Read more here. http://bit.ly/1TCENcv

ON TAP TOMORROW:

Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsToward 'Super Tuesday' — momentum, money and delegates Trump unleashed: President moves with a free hand post-impeachment Senate Democrats pressure Trump to drop ObamaCare lawsuit MORE (R-Maine) and Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenOvernight Health Care: Appeals court strikes down Medicaid work requirements | Pelosi's staff huddles with aides on surprise billing | Senate Dems pressure Trump to drop ObamaCare lawsuit Senate Democrats pressure Trump to drop ObamaCare lawsuit Trump under pressure to renew last nuke treaty with Russia MORE (D-N.H.) will hold a press conference pushing Congress to act on diabetes, featuring Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower, at 9 a.m.

The Chamber of Commerce will hold an event on corporate wellness strategies starting at 8:30 am.

WHAT WE'RE READING:

The bigger winners, losers of the Pfizer-Allergan breakup (STAT News)

Bezos, Gates chase dream of blood test that detects cancer (Bloomberg)

DEA to decide whether to change course on marijuana by July (Washington Post)

IN THE STATES:

Covered California exchange may drop hospitals that underperform (Orange County Register)

Hospitals to help pay for Medicaid expansion under latest plan in Louisiana (Times-Picayune)

Alabama governor paints grim picture for Medicaid (Montgomery Advertiser)

Federal official pledges improved care at tribal hospitals (Associated Press)

ICYMI FROM THE HILL:

Clinton: 'Glad to hear' Pfizer merger was called off

Send tips and comments to Sarah Ferris, sferris@thehill.com, and Peter Sullivan, psullivan@thehill.com. Follow us on Twitter: @thehill@sarahnferris@PeterSullivan4