House to weigh $622.1 million in new Zika funding
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[May 17, 2016]
By Richard Cowan and Timothy Gardner
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republicans in the
U.S. House of Representatives will try to pass legislation this week
providing $622.1 million in funds to fight the spreading Zika virus, far
less than the Obama administration has been seeking.
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers introduced the
measure on Monday, according to a statement. The bill would offset
the new spending by taking $352.1 million from an Ebola fund and
another $270 million from a Department of Health and Human Services
The bill "will make dollars available to fight the disease now,
prioritizing critical activities that must begin immediately, such
as vaccine development and mosquito control," Rogers said.
The mosquito-borne Zika virus has been linked to severe birth
defects and other neurological disorders and is beginning to show up
in warm climates in U.S. southern states such as Florida.
The Obama administration in February called for $1.9 billion in
emergency funds that would not result in any government spending
The White House and health officials have expressed concerns in the
past with taking money from Ebola programs to pay for Zika virus
But in April, after the Republican-led Congress did not act, it
found a temporary fix to fund the fight against Zika by redirecting
$589 million, mostly from Ebola funds.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters on Monday that
congressional inaction on supplemental funding meant that health
officials are forced to resort to the equivalent of "digging through
the sofa cushions to try to come up with the necessary money."
The House bill is also at odds with legislation being debated in the
Senate. Competing proposals there would either give Obama the full
$1.9 billion or at least $1.1 billion.
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The Senate is expected to cast initial votes on the alternatives on
Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid accused Republicans of being
“beyond reckless” by being slow to send money to combat a “raging
If the House and Senate approve competing versions they would have
to reconcile their differences and pass one uniform bill before
sending it to Obama for signing into law.
Of the $622.1 million proposed by House Republicans, $230 million
would go to the National Institutes of Health to help support the
development of vaccines to stop the spread of Zika.
Other funds would be contributed to global health programs, through
the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development,
and for the development of rapid diagnostic tests.
(Reporting By Richard Cowan and Timothy Gardner; Editing by Bernard
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