Senate rejects $1.1 billion in Zika funding


WASHINGTON – The U.S. Senate Tuesday afternoon voted down a $1.1 billion bill to combat the Zika virus by a vote of 52-46.  It needed 60 votes to advance.

Most Senate Democrats opposed provisions in the bill that would have blocked funding for Planned Parenthood and that would have allowed Confederate flags to fly at military veteran cemeteries.

It was the same bill that the Senate has rejected since June.

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, who has urged Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to move on from the highly-partisan bill that has no chance of passing in the Senate, spoke on the Senate floor prior to the vote.

“Let's stop this monkey business,” Nelson said. “Let's do what the Senate did three months ago when it passed – bipartisan by 69 votes – $ 1.1 billion in emergency funding, and send it down to the House and tell the House to stop playing these games.”

Nelson has urged McConnell to instead call a vote on the $1.1-billion compromise measure that a majority of the Senate overwhelmingly approved back in May. After the bill passed the Senate, it was modified in the House who to include the partisan provisions to it before sending it back to the Senate.

Georgia Republican Sen. David Perdue agreed that partisanship has interfered with Zika funding's passage, but has a different perspective of the problem.

"Despite Democrats’ rhetoric, if they had not blocked this funding, Congress could have acted on Zika months ago. This is a textbook example of the partisan political fights that have Georgians and Americans fed up with Washington," Perdue said.

In a second vote Tuesday afternoon, Democrats blocked taking up a GOP bill to fund the Pentagon next year, leaving in doubt Congress' ability to pass either bill.

If an agreement is not reached, the government could shut down on Sept. 30, just a few weeks before the presidential and congressional elections. However, several congressional Republicans suggested the Zika and government funding issues would be combined and resolved together ahead of the deadline.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott release the following statement after the vote: 

“Due to Hurricane Hermine, I cancelled my scheduled trip to Washington D.C. where I was supposed to meet with members of Congress today on funding for Zika. I am disappointed a bill which included funding for the Zika virus died today in the Senate. The Zika virus is a national issue and demands immediate federal action. I hope Congress and the President quickly agree on funding to combat Zika so we can protect pregnant women and their growing babies who are most harmed by this virus.”