CHN: Senate and House to Work out Differences on Zika Funding
On June 8, the Senate agreed (by voice vote) to meet with the House in formal negotiations, known as conferencing, over funding to respond to the Zika virus. The Senate passed a $1.1 billion spending package in May which it attached as an amendment to an FY17 appropriations package covering several federal agencies. The Senate package was passed as an emergency supplemental, meaning it does not require offsetting cuts. The House, however, passed a Zika proposal that would only provide $622 million through September 30 and would require offsets to pay for it. 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 say 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. However, with the major differences in the two packages, the path forward is not yet clear. 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, which has a potentially disparate impact on low-income people.