Politics

Clinton, in Miami, Will Urge Congress to Return for Zika Vote

Lawmakers pointing fingers over stalled funding

Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is expected to call for the House and Senate to either agree to an earlier Senate-passed bill that excludes a Planned Parenthood provision or go back to the drawing board and work out a new compromise. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Hillary Clinton plans to call on Congress to return from recess and approve emergency funding to fight Zika during a visit Tuesday to a Miami neighborhood deemed ground zero for the U.S. spread of the virus, according to a campaign aide.

[Standoff Over Zika Spending Arrives at Convention]

Clinton will stop at the Borinquen Medical Center, a clinic in the neighborhood where 16-non-travel related Zika cases have been detected to demand that Republican leaders bring Congress back in session to act on legislation to provide funds to combat the virus.

President Barack Obama requested $1.9 billion in February to develop a vaccine and control the mosquitoes that carry the virus, but none of that spending has been approved by Congress. Some public health funds have been reprogrammed, but Republican lawmakers have accused the Obama administration of slow-walking that money.

[Zika Funding Gone by the End of September, HHS Says]

Before leaving for a seven-week recess that stretches through early September, Republicans and Democrats were deadlocked in the Senate over multiple aspects of a Zika funding package. Lawmakers on both sides have been pointing fingers over the stalled legislation ever since.

Democrats in the Senate filibustered a conference agreement that would have provided roughly $1.1 billion to combat Zika, protesting language in that GOP proposal that would bar funds from flowing to organizations like Planned Parenthood.

It appears Clinton will not call for that package to clear Congress. Rather, an aide says she's expected to call for the House and Senate to either agree to an earlier Senate-passed bill that excludes the Planned Parenthood provision or go back to the drawing board and work out a new compromise.

The Clinton campaign is also highlighting the pledge by Democratic vice presidential nominee and Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine to go back to the Capitol to address Zika funding.

At an event in Richmond not long before being announced as Clinton's running mate, Kaine said he thought a Zika deal would ultimately be enacted.

"I think we're going to get there," Kaine said on July 5. "I think the Planned Parenthood thing was a little bit of saber-rattling and skirmishing, and I don't think we ought to be doing that when we're facing a public health emergency of this kind."  

Senate Republicans continue to say the onus is on Democrats to lift their objections to the current anti-Zika package.

"If Sen. Kaine and his fellow Democrats want to pass a bill now, they can end their filibuster and simply give unanimous consent to pass the conference report and send it straight to the President this week," Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, said Tuesday. "If this week is too soon for them, we’ll have more sessions next week and the week after that. Whenever they’re ready to stop blocking funding for anti-Zika efforts and funding for our Veterans, we’ll be here waiting."

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