White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters on Wednesday: “I don’t have a veto threat to issue” for a bipartisan $1.1 billion Zika emergency spending bill the Senate is expected to soon pass. But he also eschewed questions about the White House possibly negotiating a final Zika supplemental. The House, as expected, passed a much smaller GOP-crafted $622 million version on Wednesday night.
Earnest said the House bill “contemplates not giving our public health professionals everything that they say that they need so that they can do everything possible to protect the American people from the Zika virus.”
He pointed out that Florida GOP Sen. Marco Rubio has supported the administration’s request, noting that the government’s top health officials and scientists say it’s needed.
[White House Seeks Emergency Funds to Fight Zika]
When a reporter noted the partisan dysfunction that has defined Obama’s tenure means compromise is a must, Earnest shot back: “I just reject that.”
“This is not about the administration not being willing to compromise,” Obama’s chief spokesman said. “This is the specific request that was put forward by our public health experts. They’ve been very clear about what is necessary.”
House Republicans say their $622 million emergency Zika spending bill would give the administration around $1.2 billion to fight the virus. That’s including the $589 million the White House shifted in already appropriated funds to its Zika accounts.
[Zika Funding Fight Reignites]
“Given the severity of the Zika crisis and the global health threat, we cannot afford to wait on the administration any longer,” House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers said in a statement this week, alluding to comments the Kentucky Republican has made over the past month that he and his staff did not have enough information from the White House to move forward with a spending bill.
“We have made our own funding determinations, using what information is available and through discussions with federal agencies, to craft a proposal to fight the spread of this damaging disease,” Rogers added.
[Senators Seek to Settle Zika Bill’s Cost]
The veteran appropriator’s emergency bill would offset the Zika dollars by removing $352.1 million from federal anti-Ebola accounts. The remainder would be offset by monies taken from “unused administrative funding” from the Department of Health and Human Services.
But Earnest bluntly dubbed that a “dumb approach .”
“The only thing that Republicans in the House have come forward with is funding at like a third of the level that our public health experts recommend, but taking every single penny of that money away from efforts to protect the American people from Ebola ,” he said Wednesday. “So, that doesn’t make sense at all.”
As both the House and Senate bills move toward passage in their respective chambers, only senators have gotten together to produce compromise Zika legislation.
[How Zika Could Bite the GOP]
Once again, House Republicans are putting their fiscal frugality first. And once again, the Obama White House is insisting that the government’s proper role is to give the experts what they say they need in a potential crisis — including billions in taxpayer funds.
Once again, Washington appears stymied by partisan differences and bickering.