White House, Congress Spar Over Funds to Combat Zika Virus

PHOTO: Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., talks with reporters outside a meeting of the House Republican Conference in the Capitol, Nov. 5, 2015.PlayTom Williams/AP Photo
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The political battle over funding to stop the spread of the Zika virus appears to be at a standstill.

The nation’s top health officials say they need nearly $2 billion to fight Zika, but the request is stalled in Congress, and now the White House and Republican lawmakers are shuffling the blame across Pennsylvania Avenue.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Kentucky, said he needs more budgetary information from the administration to address the crisis.

"The question here is what will they use the money for, in detail, and when?" he said.

But the White House said it has provided Republicans with all the necessary details and that Republican lawmakers are playing political games.

“They've had ample opportunity to collect information to ask questions of senior administration officials, to read letters, to read the legislative proposal that was put forward by the administration," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said during Friday's press briefing.

Rogers, who has directed his staff to begin early work on a supplemental funding bill, said the American people will “absolutely” receive the necessary funding to fight Zika.

"I assured [President Obama] that we want to be helpful and that we're on the same team here. We want to fight this disease but we've got to do it the right way," he said.

In a recent House Appropriations Committee hearing, Republicans blocked a Democratic effort to attach an amendment to fulfill President Obama's full Zika request to an appropriations bill that cleared the committee, instead including a measure to allow unobligated funds to be used for Zika.

Democrats, led by Rep. Nita Lowey, D-New York, are now calling for special session on Zika funding with health officials.