Zika Virus

Ep. 20: Funding Fight Doesn't Squelch Zika Research
The Big Story

Though Congress and the Obama administration are still fighting over how to respond to the Zika virus outbreak, the gridlock hasn’t kept government scientists from trying to develop an effective vaccine. CQ Roll Call’s managing editor Adriel Bettelheim talks to senior Senate reporter Niels Lesniewski to learn more. 

Show Notes:

Where Does the U.S. Stand With Zika Funding?

Earlier this year, the White House requested $1.9 billion from Congress to combat the Zika virus at home and abroad. While Congress debated, some funds previously allocated for the Ebola crisis -- and other projects at the National Institutes of Health -- were shuffled to allow research for fighting the disease. But those funds are running out. Despite that, the Senate rejected a GOP-led funding package before Congress left town for their seven week summer recess.

With Zika funding uncertain, Director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Anthony Fauci spoke with CQ Roll Call about what his department needs and when.

Zika Funding Gone by the End of September, HHS Says
Agency says mosquito control and surveillance will be 'severely limited'

HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell outlined the need for additional funding from Congress to respond to the Zika virus outbreak.

The Obama administration on Wednesday pushed back against congressional criticism that available funding to combat the Zika virus is not being spent fast enough, claiming all the money on hand for domestic Zika efforts will be exhausted by the end of September.  

In a letter to senior health and foreign appropriators in both chambers, Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the secretary of Health and Human Services, provided further details of how the department is spending its share of the $589 million that the administration reprogrammed in April to fight Zika. Roll Call has reported recently that much of that total has yet to be spent, according to information from the Office of Management and Budget.  

First Zika Transmission Cases Within United States Hit Florida
Democrats, Republicans blame each other for failure to pass Zika package

An Aedes aegypti mosquito is seen through a microscope at an exhibition on Dengue fever in Recife, Brazil. The mosquito transmits the Zika virus. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Florida health officials determined Friday that four cases of Zika were likely transmitted by mosquitoes in the state, marking the first instances of mosquito-borne transmission within the continental United States.   

The development prompted the state’s Republican Sen. Marco Rubio to lash out at Congress and the Obama administration for failing to fully confront the virus. Democrats, in turn, scolded Republican leaders in Congress for leaving Washington for a seven-week summer recess without taking action to fund a Zika response.  

Senate Rejects Zika Package Again, No Signs of a Deal
Democrats criticize GOP compromise on responding to virus

The 52-44 vote on the motion to limit debate on the $1.1 billion anti-Zika funding bill amounted to a last-minute attempt by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to move the legislation to the president’s desk with the chamber ready to leave for a seven-week summer recess. Sixty "aye" votes were required to advance the measure.  

“It’s time for our friends to start worrying less about pleasing outside political groups and start worrying about actually helping the Americans who are counting on all of us,” McConnell, R-Ky., said, during floor remarks.  

Zika Talks Stalemated Despite Last-Minute White House Plea
Senate Republicans may try another procedural vote to advance GOP package

The Aedes aegypti mosquito transmits the Zika virus. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Efforts to cut a deal on a Zika virus response before Congress leaves town face long odds, with congressional Republicans and the Obama administration still far apart on how much to spend, whether the cost should be offset, and policy riders Democrats deem "poison pills."  

[ Obama Sits Out Zika Deliberations on Hill ]  

Foreign Aid Bill Omits UN Family Planning, Climate Change Funds
Democrats also criticize cap on funding for resettling refugees

An amendment offered by Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan requiring funding for the U.N. to provide contraceptives to people living in Zika-affected countries was rejected. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

House appropriators on Tuesday advanced the $52 billion fiscal 2017 foreign aid spending bill, as amended, which includes Republican policy riders that would block funding for a U.N. climate change fund and limit financial assistance for family planning programs.  

The appropriations measure was advanced by a voice vote after Republicans defeated a number of Democratic amendments to provide funding for the U.N. Green Climate Fund and slightly increase levels of funding for bilateral and multilateral assistance for family planning activities.  

Obama: Congress Should Delay Summer Break to Pass Zika Bill
Sticks by demands for full $1.9 billion in budget request

Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., plays with 7-month old Max Huijbregts before the start of the Senate Democrats' news conference on May to demand emergency funding to combat the spread of the Zika virus in the United States. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

President Barack Obama on Friday said lawmakers should pass a “good” bill to respond to the Zika virus outbreak before leaving for a lengthy summer recess while again insisting on a nearly $2 billion funding level Republicans have firmly rejected.  

After a meeting with top federal health officials, Obama told reporters that Congress should quickly hammer out and send him a spending bill he could accept when they return to Washington after the July 4 holiday.  

In Puerto Rico, One Expectant Mother's Zika 'Nightmare'
Slathered in mosquito repellent, wearing a citronella bracelet and protective clip-on fan

Ceciliana Carrion and her husband Daniel Bautista, of San Juan, Puerto Rico, are expecting their first child in October.

In Florida, the first case of a baby born with Zika-related microcephaly — an abnormally small head — was confirmed on Tuesday, bringing the total in the 50 states and the District of Columbia to five.  

On Capitol Hill, Senate Democrats spent the day killing $1.1 billion in funding to fight the mosquito-borne virus. (This over GOP provisions involving the Confederate flag, a ban on any Zika-related funding going to Planned Parenthood, and a proposal that would have weakened environmental restrictions on the use of insecticides.) Now, the Senate won't even consider Zika funding again until July 7 at the earliest, after the Fourth of July recess.  

Anti-Zika Funding in Question With Senate Stalemate
Senate Democrats blocked a funding package over 'poison pill' amendments

McConnell, center, criticized Democrats for blocking the anti-Zika measure. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

A stalemate in the Senate over a $1.1. billion plan to combat the Zika virus has both Republicans and Democrats pointing fingers across the aisle but has produced no workable plan for delivering the needed aid.  

Senate Democrats on Tuesday blocked the plan , arguing the measure was riddled with unacceptable provisions added when they were cut out of negotiations. Republicans said the conference report, already approved by the House, was the last chance to get something done.