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  • Washington Highlights

    Zika Supplemental Stalls in Senate

    Tannaz Rasouli, Sr. Director, Public Policy & Strategic Outreach

    The Senate April 28 adjourned for a week-long recess without completing action on emergency supplemental funding to address the spread of the Zika virus.

    Senate Republicans blocked an effort by Democrats to move a bill to the House that includes the administration’s request for $1.9 billion in emergency Zika funding [see Washington Highlights, Feb. 26].

    Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) made a unanimous consent request to bring up an unrelated bill (H.R. 3038) and insert a substitute amendment from Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) with the text of legislation (S. 2843) introduced April 21 by Nelson and others to provide the administration’s full request for emergency spending to stop the spread of the virus.

    Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) objected to Reid's request and blamed the administration for not providing information on how the funds will be used, a charge that Democrats reject.

    Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), the ranking member on the House Appropriations Committee, April 25 introduced a similar emergency supplemental appropriations bill (H.R. 5044) that reflects the administration’s request but includes increased funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) for vaccine and diagnostic research and development.

    Senate Republicans maintain that appropriators are working on a $1.1 billion compromise measure that falls between the White House request and $589 million in reprogrammed existing funding supported by House Republican appropriators.

    The administration has asked Congress to pass the full $1.9 billion in emergency spending by the end of May.

    The AAMC joined more than 50 organizations in a Feb. 23 letter to appropriators in support of the White House’s request. The letter also urges Congress “to allocate new money for the response, rather than repurposing funds that are designated for Ebola response and global health security.”