Republican lawmakers approve $1.1 billion
in new Zika funds
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[June 23, 2016]
By Susan Cornwell
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. House of
Representatives on Thursday agreed to $1.1 billion to fight the Zika
virus, short-changing President Barack Obama's $1.9 billion funding
request and angering Democrats by making other cuts to pay for it.
The House approved a funding deal that had been agreed to on
Wednesday by Republicans from both the House and Senate. But the
bill's future was uncertain in the Senate, where the Democratic
minority has more power to stop legislation, and Democratic leader
Harry Reid has declared his opposition.
"It is a responsible plan that assures the administration will
continue to have the needed resources to protect the public,"
Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan said. Republicans said the deal
included funding for fiscal years 2016 and 2017.
But the White House said the allocation fell short.
"This plan from congressional Republicans is four months late and
nearly a billion dollars short of what our public health experts
have said is necessary to do everything possible to fight the Zika
virus, and steals funding from other health priorities," White House
press secretary Josh Earnest said in a statement before the House
Earnest said the Republican plan would limit needed birth control
services for women seeking to prevent Zika, which can be spread
through unprotected sex -- "a clear indication they don't take
seriously the threat from the Zika virus."
Democrats have been urging Republicans for months to agree to more
Zika funding, and the Obama administration has already reprogrammed
nearly $600 million that had been set aside to fight Ebola.
House Democrats said they could not go along with the deal because
of $750 million in budget cuts elsewhere that the Republicans want
to use to pay for the Zika spending.
[to top of second column]
A woman looks at a Center for Disease Control (CDC) health advisory
sign about the dangers of the Zika virus as she lines up for a
security screening at Miami International Airport in Miami, Florida,
U.S., May 23, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
Senate Democrats also voiced displeasure, clouding the outlook for
"A narrowly partisan proposal that cuts off women's access to birth
control, shortchanges veterans and rescinds Obamacare funds to cover
the cost is not a serious response to the threat from the Zika
virus," Reid said.
Still, Ryan urged the Senate to move on the bill.
According to House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers,
$543 million of the $1.1 billion would come from unspent funds set
aside for implementing Obamacare in U.S. territories, while $107
million would come from unused funds to fight another virus, Ebola.
Another $100 million would come from unused administrative funds at
the Department of Health and Human Services, he said.
(Reporting by Susan Cornwell and Susan Heavey; Editing by Toby
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