POLITICS

Senate Passes Zika Bill That Will Go Nowhere Fast

The House favors spending only half the Senate's $1.1 billion measure, and there's no compromise plan in sight.

WASHINGTON -- The Senate added emergency Zika funding to a larger spending bill Thursday, all but guaranteeing it will go nowhere soon.

The Senate voted earlier to waive budget rules and add the cost of the $1.1 billion Zika measure to the deficit. It then passed it, 89-8, along with a massive appropriations measure that includes funding for transportation programs, the VA, housing programs and military construction.

The passage sets up an immediate conflict with the House, which passed its own standalone Zika measure Wednesday with just $622 million in funding.

The House has just begun to work on its spending bills, and so far there is no proposal to pass a measure similar to the Senate's. The lack of equivalent bills means GOP leaders will have to decide on a path forward. That could prove difficult, considering the wide differences in the competing bills.

President Barack Obama had asked for $1.9 billion in February. Rather than act on his request, Republican leaders advised him to raid unspent money passed two years ago to combat Ebola. The administration did so, transferring $589 million into the Zika effort. Its $1.9 billion request would replace those funds.

The House bill, however, relies on cutting Ebola funds further to offset its cost.

The House could pass an appropriations bill that resembles the Senate's, but even if it does, it would require the two bodies to work out the differences.

Another possibility would be for the Senate to take up the House bill, and amend it with its own provisions. But unless the leaders work out their differences, the modified version would likely fail in the House.

Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 544 people in mainland U.S. states and Hawaii are infected with the virus, which can cause severe birth defects, among other ailments. There were also more than 800 cases in U.S. territories, primarily Puerto Rico. The infections are all believed to have been contracted abroad or in Puerto Rico, but doctors warn it is only a matter of time before people begin contracting the virus in the U.S. mainland and in Europe.

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