WASHINGTON — House Republicans introduced a Zika funding bill Monday that would provide $622 million for the fight — less than half of what the Obama administration wanted as the nation prepares for the likely spread of the virus this summer.
The bill, introduced by House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, would allow Congress to get some funding out the door before the start of mosquito season makes more Zika cases likely in the United States. Additional spending may be considered this fall as part of the regular federal funding bills, Rogers said.
The House bill is the low bid among several Zika funding proposals now before Congress, reflecting House Republicans’ view that the Obama administration likely has the funds it needs on hand — a view the White House strongly rejects. White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters the new bill provides “only about a third of what our health professionals say is necessary to protect the American people.”
The administration wants $1.9 billion in Zika funds. The Senate is set to vote on Tuesday on a bipartisan compromise that would fund the effort at $1.1 billion.
The House bill, which is likely to come up for a vote later this week, would provide $230 million for the National Institutes of Health to speed the development of a Zika vaccine; $170 million for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help with mosquito control and public health preparations; $119 million for the State Department and US Agency for International Development; and $103 million for the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority.
It would draw $352 million — more than half the total — from unused funds that were meant for the Ebola virus, a key demand of conservative House Republicans. The other $270 million would be taken out of administrative funds at the Department of Health and Human Services.
The administration has already diverted $500 million intended for the fight against Ebola, but House Republicans believe still more Ebola funds could be shifted to the Zika response.
Rogers said House Republicans made their own decisions on how much funding to provide because the administration hasn’t provided enough detail about how it would spend the money in its request.
“Given the severity of the Zika crisis and the global health threat, we cannot afford to wait on the administration any longer. 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 said in a statement.
Earnest, however, insisted the administration gave lawmakers all the details they needed when it submitted its emergency funding request on Feb. 22, and accused Republicans of making “bureaucratic excuses” for not acting sooner.
“I don’t think that’s going to be a satisfactory explanation to the American people when they find out that pregnant women and babies are at risk because of the Zika virus,” Earnest said. “If there was something in that Feb. 22 letter that they didn’t understand, why didn’t they pick up the phone on Feb. 23 and ask about it?”
A previous version of this story incorrectly described the Senate compromise bill. It would fund the Zika fight at $1.1 billion.