CHN: House Republicans Pass ‘Compromise’ Zika Package that Angers Democrats

Although House and Senate members from both sides of the aisle previously met in formal negotiations, known as conferencing, over funding to respond to the Zika virus, the House last week passed a Zika package that was a compromise between House and Senate Republicans but that angered Democrats in both chambers. The Zika package passed (239-171, mostly along party lines) along with the FY17 Military Construction-Veterans Affairs conference spending bill amidst the House Democratic sit-in in the early morning hours of Thursday, June 23, only hours after it was released. No debate was allowed on the bill, which matches the $1.1 billion funding level for Zika passed by the Senate in May (the original House Zika package was only for $622 million). However, the Senate package was passed as an emergency supplemental measure, meaning it did not require offsetting cuts. The ‘compromise’ package passed by the House contains $750 million in offsets, including money slated for fighting the Ebola virus, Affordable Care Act health exchanges and administrative funding for the Department of Health and Human Services.
Democrats in both chambers slammed the bill for these offsets, as well as for language in the bill that they see as attacks on clean water laws and women’s health care services. The package may receive a procedural vote in the Senate as early as Monday, June 27, though it appears to lack the 60 votes needed to advance. CQ is also reporting that a White House aide has said President Obama would veto the measure if it is enacted.

After requesting $1.9 billion in emergency funding in February, the White House previously announced that $589 million would be redirected from Ebola funding to fight the Zika virus until additional money was appropriated. The Administration is still calling for $1.9 billion to be appropriated to respond to Zika.

Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle have said they’d like to get a package to President Obama by the end of June, as both chambers are currently scheduled to leave town July 15 for seven weeks. As CHN previously noted, major cuts to public health funding have left health departments unable to deal with a serious outbreak of the Zika virus.

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