Senate Passes Zika Funding Bill

Posted: May 19, 2016 2:45 PM
Senate Passes Zika Funding Bill

The Senate nearly doubled the House's Zika fund proposal Thursday, approving $1.1 billion in funds to fight the virus.

Following a 68-30 vote, the Senate amended a larger appropriations bill that is still under debate. The amendment was the result of negotiations between Senators Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.).

After the amendment passed Blunt released a statement, saying:

“The Zika virus is a public health emergency, and I’m disappointed that the administration attempted to use this situation to push Congress to fund non-emergency items when the focus should be on combating the Zika virus. I’m pleased this measure passed the Senate, and I look forward to working with the House to put a bill on the president’s desk that will help protect Americans.”

The bipartisan effort came in response to the president's request for $1.8 billion in funding, focusing only on the prevention, control, and treatment of the virus. The president's additional requests for projects including federal building expansions were not addressed by the amendment.

Murray also commented on the amendment when it moved forward in the Senate on Tuesday:

"Women and families are looking to Congress to fight back against the Zika virus, so I’m glad that the Senate has finally taken action to get a bipartisan down payment on the President’s emergency funding proposal into the hands of first responders and researchers as soon as possible." 

Murray called for House Republicans to approve the bill and put aside their "partisan legislation." Senate conservatives blocked two standalone Zika bills that proposed $1.9 billion and $1.1 billion in funding, but were unable to require that the funding be paid for.

The House approved $622 million in its own funding bill, drawing the disapproval of both House Democrats and senators. The bill received criticism for using anti-Ebola funds to cover part of the costs. The White House threatened to veto it this week, declaring it "woefully inadequate to support the response our public health experts say is needed."

The CDC reports over 1,200 cases of the Zika Virus in the U.S. and its territories.