Add-Ons Imperil Senate Bill to Fund Zika Fight

     WASHINGTON (CN) — A campaign-finance reform provision is among the sticking points keeping the U.S. Senate from passing a short-term funding bill expected to keep the government open into December and include money to fight the Zika virus.
     The Senate delayed a procedural vote on the funding bill twice on Tuesday before eventually moving to it after a short meeting just down the hall from the Senate chamber. An 89-7 vote put lawmakers one step closer to bringing the funding package — which would fund the government through Dec. 9 — to the floor.
     But the bill that cleared the procedural challenge Tuesday is not truly the funding agreement, which is known as a continuing resolution, but rather a “shell” into which lawmakers will eventually place whatever package they eventually craft.
     The details of the continuing resolution are still being negotiated, though it is still expected to include funding to fight the Zika virus without provisions to bar Planned Parenthood’s Puerto Rico arm from using the money which Senate Democrats balked at in the past.
     “Members are continuing to work toward an agreement and we all hope to have that completed and available for review soon and with cooperation we can get that done and begin debate,” said Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky.
     Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, said at a press conference Tuesday afternoon that talks on the continuing resolution were being held up by Republicans’ insistence on including a provision to block the Securities and Exchange Commission from requiring companies to disclose political contributions.
     “We are not going to have this bill [be] a pincushion for McConnell’s desire to have nothing reported dealing with campaign spending,” Reid told reporters Tuesday.
     By Tuesday evening, the closest lawmakers would get to predicting when the continuing resolution will finally be done was “soon.”
     The Senate faces a Sept. 30 deadline to fund the government and avoid a shutdown.
     But short-term spending bills like these also give lawmakers a chance to push in pieces of legislation that are controversial or have failed in the past. Last September, for example, Republicans attempted to paste a measure defunding Planned Parenthood to a continuing resolution, though the measure failed and they were forced to settle on a so-called “clean” resolution.
     The proposed Zika funding package is one such add-on. Republicans and Democrats have voted on Zika funding three times this year and even passed a measure in May, though a conference with the version the House passed killed the agreement by loading it with provisions Democrats said would have restricted Planned Parenthood’s Puerto Rico arm from using the money.
     The short-term funding agreement would punt the fight over government spending until after the November elections, when a third of the Senate faces reelection. This could lead to a showdown if Democrats are able to take control as some prognosticators expect, leaving a “lame duck” session to come up with a funding agreement.

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