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  • Washington Highlights

    House Passes Zika Conference Report Despite Democrats’ Objections

    Matthew Shick, Sr. Director, Gov't Relations & Regulatory Affairs

    The House of Representatives June 23 approved, on a party-line vote of 239-171, the fiscal year (FY) 2017 Military Construction-VA and Transportation-HUD appropriations bill (H. Rept. 114-129), which included the House Zika conference report that provides $1.1 billion in funding through Sept. 30, 2017, to address the Zika virus.

    House and Senate Democrats have already voiced their strong concerns with the bill due to its offsets and inclusion of controversial provisions, and the administration June 23 announced that the president would veto the bill in its current form. Specifically, the bill restricts some funding for family planning services in Zika-affected areas. The bill also prohibits funds from being used to study the impact that pollution in lakes and streams has on physical and mental diseases.

    The House partially-offset the $1.1 billion cost by reallocating $107 million in unused funds appropriated to the State Department to address the Ebola virus outbreak, as well as $100 million in “unused administrative funding” from the nonrecurring expenses fund at the Department of Health and Human Services. Further, the bill uses $543 million in unused Affordable Care Act (ACA, P.L. 111-148 and P.L. 111-152) funds originally intended for U.S. territories to set up their health care exchanges, according to the House Appropriations Committee summary.

    The House-approved conference report includes:

    • $230 million for the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to use for vaccines and research to address the Zika virus;

    • $476 million to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for its response to the Zika virus. Specifically, $88 million of the provided amount can be used to reimburse accounts that the CDC has had to reallocate funds from to respond to the Zika virus;

    • $227 million for the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund to respond to Zika virus, including $40 million to expand primary care services through the National Health Services Corps in Puerto Rico and other territories;

    • $145 million for global health programs for assistance and research to respond to the Zika virus;

    • $14.5 million for the State Department’s response efforts related to the Zika virus; and

    • $10 million for USAID efforts to respond to Zika virus.

    The AAMC has joined several efforts to advocate for robust funding to address the Zika virus. The AAMC joined 60 organizations in a May 18 letter to House members urging them to provide funding at the administration’s requested levels and to reject proposals that would cut other public health programs. The AAMC also signed on to a letter to appropriators with more than 50 other organizations in support of the White House’s request. Additionally, the association joined a June 6 community letter to House Conferees urging them to provide the highest possible level of funding to fight the Zika virus, and to provide new funding rather than repurpose funds from other high priority public health programs.