House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Thursday the chamber may vote on a conference report addressing a response to the Zika virus outbreak next week if Senate and House negotiators produce a final package.
"I'm hopeful in my conversations with the conferees that they are close to finishing," McCarthy said.
The comments came as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported three babies had been born in the U.S. with birth defects linked to Zika, and that three more had been lost to miscarriages or aborted because of the defects. All of the cases were connected to travel to regions with outbreaks of the mosquito-borne virus
The CDC has determined that Zika can cause microcephaly in infants, a defect where the baby's head is smaller than expected, and other developmental problems. The agency has recommended that pregnant women avoid travel to Zika-infected areas.
M ore than 30 Democratic and Republican Zika conferees gathered in the basement of the Capitol for the first time as a group on Wednesday, exactly one month before both chambers are scheduled to recess for more than seven weeks. The House is scheduled to work just one more week in June, leaving little time for negotiators to bridge wide differences in each chamber’s Zika spending proposal before their target date of July 1.
The Senate in May passed a $1.1 billion Zika emergency spending measure as part of the same broader appropriations package that includes the Military Construction-VA bill. The same day, the House passed a standalone bill to provide $622 million to combat the virus for the remaining three months of fiscal 2016.
The House bill is fully paid for by rescinding other health and foreign aid spending, while the Senate package contains no offsets and no expiration date.