- The Washington Times - Monday, May 16, 2016

House Republicans unveiled a bill Monday that funds only a third of President Obama’s request to combat the Zika virus, saying the White House hadn’t fully justified its pitch for nearly $2 billion to gird for the mosquito-borne illness.

Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers, Kentucky Republican, said his legislation posts $622 million to pursue a vaccine and boost mosquito control efforts over the next five months.

“The administration has still not provided full accounting and justification for its request for Zika funds,” Mr. Rogers said. “Given this lack of complete information and the need to act quickly, independent determinations on necessary funding levels and federal activities to fight Zika in the current fiscal year were made.”

The package would be fully paid for by using $352 million in left over funds from the fight against Ebola in West Africa and $270 million in “unused administrative funding” at the Health and Human Services Department.

Mr. Rogers said the House can free up additional money, as needed, as part of the fiscal 2017 spending process.

The White House blasted the House proposal, arguing the administration fully detailed its plans in February.

“Here we are almost three months later, and we hear that some House Republican have gotten around to considering a piece of legislation that is only about a third of what our public health professionals say is fully necessary to protect the American people,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recorded more than 500 travel-related cases of Zika virus in the states and D.C., including a handful through sexual transmission, and officials warn it could puncture the mainland further once temperatures climb and mosquito populations flourish.

Democrats say the GOP is playing Russian roulette with a major health scare by failing to pony up the $1.9 billion that administration health officials say they need to combat Zika and backfill nearly $600 million it shifted from other accounts, including $510 million from Ebola efforts, to gird for the latest health scare.

Senators will stake out their positions through a series of amendment votes later this week.

One amendment would fully fund Mr. Obama’s request for $1.9 billion in emergency spending that is not offset, while a bipartisan compromise measure would a little more than half — $1.1 billion — of what the president wants, though top Democrats have balked at that level.

“That simply is not enough,” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, said.

Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, offered a third plan that posts $1.1 billion by taking money from Obamacare’s preventive health fund.

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