Ryan backs Louisiana flood aid in stopgap spending bill

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Speaker Paul Ryan said Wednesday that he supports an immediate infusion of flood aid to Louisiana as part of a temporary government-wide spending bill that’s the top item on the congressional agenda before lawmakers leave Washington for the fall campaign.

The bill also provides more than $1 billion in long-delayed funding to battle the Zika virus. Ryan predicted that negotiations on the measure will be wrapped up this week.

President Barack Obama has heeded calls by Louisiana’s governor and congressional delegation and requested $2.6 billion to help Louisiana rebuild from last month’s devastating floods. Ryan didn’t volunteer how much money he supports. But the Republican speaker is opposed to a key demand of Democratic negotiators: money to help Flint, Michigan, repair its lead-tainted water system.

The flood aid question is one of a handful of unresolved issues involving the stopgap funding bill, which would prevent a shutdown next week and keep the government running through Dec. 9.

Meanwhile, the Senate is set to vote Wednesday on a resolution to block the Obama administration from selling more than $1 billion worth of American-made weapons to Saudi Arabia, a key U.S. ally in the Middle East. Lawmakers backing the measure, including Rand Paul, R-Ky., are critical of the kingdom’s role in Yemen’s civil war, but Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., opposes the resolution.

“I think it’s important to the United States to maintain as good a relationship with Saudi Arabia as possible,” McConnell said Tuesday. “And I hope we’ll defeat the resolution of disapproval of the arms sale.”

The other big item on the Capitol Hill pre-election to-do list is an override vote on President Barack Obama’s anticipated veto of legislation that would allow the families of 9/11 victims to sue the government of Saudi Arabia. Ryan predicted that “the votes are there for the override.” The vote is expected next week.

The Zika-fighting portion of the pre-election spending bill is nearly complete. Republicans have dropped language to block affiliates of Planned Parenthood in Puerto Rico from receiving funding for prevention and treatment of Zika in the territory. Zika, which can cause grave birth defects, is often transmitted by sexual contact, and women are being advised to delay getting pregnant if they live in an area where Zika is widespread.

Negotiators on the measure hope a deal might be reached on Wednesday, but negotiators have blown through several earlier deadlines.

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