lawmakers seek compromise on Zika virus funding
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[September 08, 2016]
By Richard Cowan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. lawmakers
sought on Wednesday to break a logjam over $1.1 billion in funding to
combat the Zika virus, with the Senate possibly considering legislation
as soon as next week, even as one congressman toted a jar full of
mosquitoes to the House floor to condemn congressional inaction.
"Can you imagine the fears and anxieties if the mosquitoes were not
in this jar?" Florida Republican David Jolly told his colleagues as
he brandished the container holding about 100 of the insects in the
House of Representatives chamber.
"Members of Congress would run down the hall to the physician's
office to be tested," added Jolly, whose state is the first in the
nation with local transmission of the mosquito-borne virus that has
spread through the Americas.
The potential Senate Zika measure could advance as part of a broader
legislative effort to temporarily keep federal agencies operating in
the 2017 fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.
Republicans and Democrats huddled separately in closed meetings in
both the Senate and House to see if they could reach a compromise
during a 19-day work session this month, before lawmakers break for
a recess in the weeks before the Nov. 8 U.S. election. Lawmakers
returned to work this week after a seven-week summer recess.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters he was in
talks with Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid.
"We're looking for a way forward. And I'm hopeful and optimistic
that we'll be able to do that," McConnell, a Republican, said of
both a temporary agency funding bill and Zika money.
In February, President Barack Obama asked Congress to approve $1.9
billion in emergency funds to deal with the Zika virus, which can
cause severe birth defects when pregnant women become infected.
Since then, both parties have backed $1.1 billion as the funding
figure. But fights over side issues related to abortion and Obama's
signature healthcare law have bitterly divided the two parties.
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One of the biggest controversies involves Democrats' opposition to
language, backed by Republicans, that they say would prevent Zika
funds for abortion providers like Planned Parenthood, mainly in
The Miami Herald on Tuesday quoted Senators Marco Rubio of Florida
and Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, who chairs a Senate panel
overseeing healthcare funding, suggesting the Planned Parenthood
language might have to be dropped in order to reach a deal.
Aides to both senators declined to confirm or deny the accuracy of
Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine, asked by Reuters whether
she thought Planned Parenthood funding restrictions should be
eliminated from Zika legislation, said: "That would be my
Still, some Republicans were resisting a deal that would abandon the
Planned Parenthood language in the Zika bill.
(Reporting by Richard Cowan and Susan Cornwell; Editing by Will
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