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Can newly rested Congress get it together to fight Zika?

Experts urge Congress to pass a Zika prevention bill

Three senior U.S. government experts testify before a Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee to urge Congress to pass a $1.1 billion Zika prevention bill stalled by partisan politics. The bill stalled after a House GOP version added provisions to b
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Three senior U.S. government experts testify before a Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee to urge Congress to pass a $1.1 billion Zika prevention bill stalled by partisan politics. The bill stalled after a House GOP version added provisions to b

Democrats and Republicans are expected to remain deadlocked on Tuesday over a bill that would provide funding for Zika research and prevention.

Democrats, who blocked the legislation in July, likely will oppose it again over concerns about budget cuts included in the bill, as well as language that would disqualify Planned Parenthood from receiving grant money to combat Zika in Puerto Rico, where the virus is widespread.

There is little doubt about the outcome of the Senate vote, which is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. But lawmakers and congressional staff who have been working behind the scenes to reach a deal on Zika say that the bill’s failure Tuesday could clear the way for a compromise.

One possible solution under discussion is adding Zika funds in an amendment to a continuing budget resolution, which Congress must pass by the end of the month to prevent a government shutdown.

Although continuing resolutions by definition maintain current funding levels, lawmakers could add emergency funds for natural disasters like the floods in Louisiana or wildfires in the West, as well as for Zika.

One possible solution under discussion is adding Zika funds in an amendment to a continuing budget resolution, which Congress must pass by the end of the month to prevent a government shutdown.

Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, a Republican involved in the Zika talks, said in an interview that lawmakers might find it easier to vote for Zika money as part of a continuing resolution than as separate bill.

It could change the political calculation for members who rejected the Zika bill as flawed, but want to keep the government open, Blunt said.

“An imperfect thing added to a (continuing resolution) might not be as hard a thing to vote for as an imperfect thing that’s a standalone,” he said.

Whatever package does pass probably won’t include the controversial language about Planned Parenthood that Democrats found so offensive, Blunt said.

“For this to get done, that language just may have to go away,” he said. “But both sides will declare some level of victory and there’s probably other places where that money would be better spent right now anyway, based on where we are at this moment with vaccines as well as tests.”

The recent discovery of Zika-infected mosquitoes in Miami intensifies pressure on Congress, which left Washington in July for a seven-week break without allocating money to halt the spread of the virus.

Democrats and Republicans were tantalizingly close to a deal on Zika months ago, when it all fell apart in the final 48 hours, according to interviews with a half-dozen senior congressional staffers involved in the talks.

Lindsay Wise: 202-383-6007, @lindsaywise

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