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Posted 27 April 2016 | By Michael Mezher
House and Senate Democrats are calling on their Republican counterparts to support a new standalone bill, supported by President Barack Obama, calling for $1.9 billion to fund efforts to combat the Zika virus.
The call was made during a press conference on Wednesday, where Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) urged Republicans to act before a week-long recess beginning 30 April, saying, "We need immediate action to fight the Zika virus before it spreads further. We should not leave on a recess until we do something about this emergency."
The bill, sponsored by Reps. Nita Lowey (D-NY), Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), marks the latest attempt by House Democrats to increase funding for federal efforts against the virus, and comes one week after House Republicans declined multiple times to include a similar amendment in their markup of the FY 2017 spending bill.
After declining to include the previous amendment in the spending bill markup, Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY) said Republicans would need more "information from bureaucrats" detailing what the funding would be used for.
Lowey responded on Wednesday, saying, "The Administration has counted every cent in the request. But still, the Majority drags its feet and moves the goal post, delaying our ability to mount the Zika response that is needed. All the promises and hot air in the world will not provide the vaccines, diagnostics and mosquito control that's needed right now."
DeLauro added: "It's unconscionable that in the midst of a global health crisis, we cannot appropriate emergency funds to save lives."
If passed, the bill would provide $743 million to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), $277 million to the National Institutes for Health (NIH) and $10 million to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for Zika and other infectious disease preparedness and prevention.
In addition, the bill would provide $233 million toward a Public Health and Social Services Emergency fund, which would go towards the development and purchasing of vaccines and diagnostics.
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