(Bloomberg) — Senate Republicans are preparing to relent on a major portion of President Barack Obama’s emergency request to respond to the Zika virus.
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Republicans are drafting a more than $1 billion emergency plan, according to a Republican familiar with the matter, which could be attached to another appropriations bill in a committee as soon as Thursday. The person expects the package to have Democratic support.
A senior Republican aide, however, said the administration’s revised request, which was issued Monday, is still being examined and no final determination has been made about what will be included and where it will move.
The White House, which has requested $1.9 billion in additional spending, has stepped up its campaign to secure the funding, warning that additional emergency efforts are needed to prevent a larger outbreak of the virus.
“Republicans in Congress have done little to nothing to address this issue for the last two months,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Monday. “And the opportunity to get ahead of this potentially serious situation is washing away.”
House Republicans have been reluctant to approve any emergency spending, with some arguing the needs can be met by tapping unused funding for the Ebola virus and that additional money can be provided through the regular spending bill process.
Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters Tuesday “there is a sense of urgency” to act, but he blamed the White House for not answering all of the questions lawmakers have about the request.
“When we get sufficient answers to those questions, then we’ll take sufficient action,” Ryan said.
A senior House appropriator said Wednesday that a decision to add $1 billion in Zika-related funding would not be well received in the House.
“If they do that, it could provoke a backlash from some Republicans who will say that they are panicking and it’s premature, you’ve got to work with the agencies,” Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, the chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee that funds the Health and Human Services Department, said in an interview.
“If they do that, look, we’ll deal with it,” he said.
Cole said that the administration continues to have difficulty identifying what money would be spent in fiscal 2016 and what money would be spent in the next fiscal year. He said he is prepared to have a large Zika commitment in his upcoming spending bill while sticking to the overall budget cap.
Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who chairs the Appropriations subcommittee that funds the U.S. Agency for International Development, separately said he would be backing that portion of the supplemental spending request from the administration as part of an overall supplemental measure “soon.”
“I’m going to work with the committee to do an emergency supplemental” for USAID, Graham said. “They’ve already got some money from the Ebola account so we’re not going to pay twice, but I think we’ll meet their needs.”
Graham said he supports other pieces of the Zika spending request as well, although maybe not the full amount.
“I believe it’s a real problem and I’d like to address it,” he said.