Congress has less than a month to agree on how to fund the government as lawmakers eye close races back home that could weaken the GOP's hold on the House and possibly tip control of the Senate.
Although Minority Leader Harry Reid has mentioned the possibility of a government shutdown, most in Congress, which returned to work Monday after a seven-week break, are avoiding that possibility. A continuing resolution is likely, but questions such as how much funding it will include and how long it will last are up in the air.
Republicans will push for a short-term resolution, especially with concerns they will have less control of Congress next year. Democrats may be willing to compromise on this for approval of funding to combat the Zika virus.
Efforts to provide funding for Zika before the summer recess failed, mostly over Republican-included provisions to defund Planned Parenthood. With mosquitoes in the U.S. now transmitting the virus and the public concern growing, Congress will see heavy pressure to approve funding.
That is especially true in Florida, where locally transmitted cases grow. Republicans there, including Sen. Marco Rubio, who is facing a tough re-election this year, have called on Congress to pass funding.
The March of Dimes sent a letter to Congress requesting immediate funding for Zika and citing a survey showing that three-quarters of Americans support increased federal funding into research to prevent the spread of the virus.
“Immediate funding is essential to help communities protect their residents from Zika, enable them to prepare for the future, and ensure that development of vaccines, diagnostics and treatments proceeds as rapidly as possible,” they wrote.
Also in question is funding for the National Institutes of Health. Appropriations committees in the House and Senate have approved increases of $2 billion and $1.25 billion to the agency's funding for fiscal 2017. In a letter to congressional leaders, Research! America and the Aerospace Industries Association encourage them to finish the regular appropriations process for fiscal year 2017 instead of a continuing resolution in order to safeguard NIH funding.
“A long-term CR would undercut that funding growth, choking off unprecedented progress against deadly and debilitating health threats,” they wrote.