The Senate on Tuesday voted in favor of providing $1.1 billion in new funds to fight the Zika virus, which continues to spread in Central and South America and is expected to hit the US soon.
The 68-29 vote in the Senate means the new funding could be added to an unrelated spending bill, though the funds are significantly less than the $1.9 billion President Barack Obama and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) requested three months ago to fight Zika.
The Senate vote to add new funding also comes a month after the House Appropriations Committee punted on adding such funding to the US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) spending bill.
Fight With House
Unlike in the House, the Senate’s Zika funds would not be offset by other cuts to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which means there could be a looming showdown between the House and Senate.
The Senate vote also comes a day after House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) introduced a bill that would provide HHS with less than half of what Obama requested. Obama on Tuesday threatened to veto Rogers’ bill.
That bill, which Rogers said would just be used for the final five months of this fiscal year, would provides a total of $622.1 million to federal agencies, including $170 million for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), $230 million for the NIH, $103 million for Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) and $119.1 million for programs through the State Department.
The bill repurposes approximately $352.1 million “from leftover, unobligated funding from the 2014 Ebola outbreak,” Rogers said, adding that it would also use $270 million in “unused administrative funding within HHS, to pay for the cost of these activities. The bill does not specify which Ebola funds to rescind, allowing the Administration to direct the reductions to lower-priority or unneeded funds.”
In a House Rules Committee hearing on Tuesday, Rogers and Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) made clear that the fight with the Senate will be over whether the Zika funding will be offset with cuts.
Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX) also called on the State Department and CDC to issue a travel ban to stop Zika from entering the US and he called on American athletes to not attend the Olympics later this summer in Brazil.
House Zika Bill
Senator Murray deal on Zika funding