The vote comes amid growing concern that the virus could spread rapidly as the mosquito population grows this summer. Zika has been linked to birth defects and health issues across Latin America and the Caribbean, including parts of Mexico and Puerto Rico.
The question now is how quickly Senate leaders can settle their differences with House Republicans, who are reluctant to approve new funds unless they are offset with cuts elsewhere in the budget.
Later this week, the House is set to take up legislation that would provide $622.1 million to battle Zika. The package redirects money leftover from battling the Ebola virus and other programs run by the Department of Health and Human Services to a Zika fund.
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) on Monday said GOP leaders have not ruled out additional funding, but they want the Obama administration to first provide an exact accounting of how it plans to use any new funds.
“Given the severity of the Zika crisis and the global health threat, we cannot afford to wait on the Administration any longer,” Rogers said in a statement. “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.”
The White House issued a veto threat on the House bill and Democrats rejected the proposal immediately.
“The House needs to wake up to the fact that this is an emergency,” Murray said. “People’s health and lives are at risk and they need to step up to the plate.”
Th Senate rejected two other Zika amendments — one from Florida Sens. Bill Nelson (D) and Marco Rubio (R) that would have provided the $1.9 billion requested by the White House and a $1.1 billion proposal from Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) that would offset the spending by cutting funds for an Affordable Care Act program. The Nelson-Rubio amendment failed on a 50 to 47 vote and the Cornyn amendment failed on a 52 to 45 – both needed 60 votes to clear a procedural hurdle.