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Top Democrats Filing Discharge Petition for Full Zika Funding

Top Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee are introducing a discharge petition in an attempt to force a floor vote on President Obama’s $1.9 billion request for Zika funding, signaling lawmakers are still far from a deal to fund a federal response to the virus.

“If Speaker Ryan and Leader McCarthy put it on the floor today, we believe it would pass with broad bipartisan support,” Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), the ranking member on the Appropriations Committee told reporters Tuesday. “When members return to Washington today, we will encourage them to sign the discharge petition to force a vote on the President’s full Zika request.”

A discharge petition would bring a bill to the floor without a committee report and would require 218 signatures from House members, meaning Democrats would need more than two dozen Republicans to join their cause.

The Senate has advanced $1.1 billion in emergency funding that would last through September 2017 while House Republicans advanced a $622 million package that includes using funding originally allocated for the Ebola outbreak to address Zika. Negotiations between lawmakers to reconcile the packages are slow-going, Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), the ranking member on the Senate Appropriations Committee, told reporters Tuesday.

Lowey said House Democrats they negotiating “in good faith” with House and Senate Republicans, but they aren’t sure that even a compromise among the committee would have enough support. Lowey said that because negotiations are ongoing she couldn’t comment directly on them, but said there was no guarantee conferees would reach a conclusion.

“There’s no guarantee any agreement we reach will pass muster with the Republican leadership or the conservative elements in the House,” Lowey said.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, meanwhile, said members are “all anxious to finish” work on the bills and the Senate “will certainly get it done very quickly” when a conference report is ready.