House, Senate take different paths on Zika

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Not only are Democrats and Republicans on different pages about legislation dealing with the Zika virus, but the House and Senate are approving much different measures this week, raising the possibility that nothing may be approved by lawmakers before they leave town later this month for a Memorial Day break.

The House on Wednesday night – over stern opposition from Democrats – approved a $622 million Zika plan drawn up by Republicans, as the GOP ignored a veto threat leveled by the White House.

Democrats and President Obama have requested $1.9 billion – this House GOP plan would provide about a third of that.

“I say that’s more than adequate,” argued Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY), the Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, as Republicans said other money that had already been moved around in the budget would mean the total Zika funding is about $1.2 billion.

“Unlike the president’s request, the funding measure passed by the House is fully paid for,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK).

But Democrats took to the House floor to repeatedly denounce the plan, arguing it will leave Americans in danger to the spreading Zika virus.

“If I get sick, I hope it doesn’t take 90 days for the emergency responders to come to my aid,” said Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), as Democrats accused the GOP of dragging their feet on the President’s request for money in the midst of a health crisis.

“I cannot support this drastic under funding of this public health emergency,” said Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY), as the two sides traded verbal punches on the floor of the House.

In the end, four Republicans – three of them from Florida – voted against the GOP Zika funding, siding with the argument from Democrats that more money is needed.

As for the Senate, a $1.1 billion plan is set for approval on Thursday – unlike the House bill, the extra spending is just added to the federal deficit, as the effort has no budget offsets.

That may make it difficult to work out a deal before lawmakers leave town next week on a break for Memorial Day.

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