WASHINGTON — The Senate voted on Tuesday to advance $1.1 billion in emergency financing to combat the mosquito-borne Zika virus — less than the $1.9 billion requested by the White House, and setting up a confrontation with House Republicans who have put forward a plan with just $622 million reallocated from other programs.
The action in the Senate was a sign that even in a bitterly contentious election year, compromise is still possible, at least in that chamber. A proposal to grant the full White House request failed, as did a proposal that would have appropriated the money, but with offsetting spending cuts.
The vote on the compromise plan was 68 to 29, with 22 Republicans joining Democrats in favor and no Democrats opposed.
A number of Senate Republicans, particularly from Southern states that face the most immediate threat from Zika virus, spoke out forcefully for government action, putting added pressure on House Republicans who have accused the Obama administration of using the threat of Zika to demand a “slush fund” from Congress.
But Senator Johnny Isakson, Republican of Georgia, said he had recently spent four hours at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looking at models of how the virus could spread.
“If anybody in the audience or in this room doesn’t think this an emergency, you should have been with Senator Collins and I two weeks ago at the C.D.C. in Atlanta,” Mr. Isakson said, referring to Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine. “There have already been one million cases in the Caribbean and Central America and South America, 500 cases in the United States of America, and it’s going to grow.”
“This is a lot of money, but it is only a pittance compared to what it would cost if the epidemic got out of control and we didn’t stop it and we didn’t defeat it,” he continued.
On Monday, however, House Republicans put forward legislation that would require the Obama administration to reallocate $622 million from existing health programs to fight Zika, which causes severe birth defects.
In announcing their proposal, House Republicans said in a statement that they were supporting “critical activities that must begin immediately, such as vaccine development and mosquito control.”
The White House condemned their refusal to consider the Zika virus a health emergency that warrants new spending without corresponding cuts.
“It is woefully insufficient given the significant risk that is posed by Zika,” the White House press secretary, Josh Earnest, said. He added, “The House of Representatives is three months late and more than a billion short of doing what’s necessary to protect the American people.”
Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the C.D.C. director, was similarly incensed. “This is no way to fight an epidemic,” he said in a telephone interview.
“We’re scraping together dollars to try to move as quickly as possible,” he said. “We’re borrowing money from other programs, we’re writing short-term contracts, we can’t make long term contracts with families to follow their kids. We can’t do long-term studies on how to stop the mosquito. We want to put together a whole package on how to kill inside, outside, how to kill larvae, how to do what works best. And it’s not possible under the House version.”
While the political arguments have focused on the broad numbers, federal health officials have been parsing the fine-print of the legislation to get a sense of the real-life implications of each proposal.
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which is in charge of overseeing efforts to develop a vaccine, and other Zika research, said that his policy decisions would hinge on the amount of money approved.
The measure advanced by the Senate on Tuesday allocates $200 million to the National Institutes of Health, an amount that Dr. Fauci described as “not catastrophic.”
“Even in my worst-case scenario, I will be able to do most of my vaccine stuff,” he said.
In the House, the Republican legislation highlighted a core philosophical dispute that has frequently paralyzed Washington in recent years: a refusal by some hard-line conservative Republicans to support any new federal spending, even as President Obama and his fellow Democrats insist that the government’s involvement must grow to meet expanding needs.
Democrats on Tuesday decried the refusal to support new government spending even in emergency situations.
“Our friends on the other side of the aisle need to wake up,” Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York, shouted at a news conference. “We have new crises. It takes some money to fix them. Whether it’s Zika, the crisis in Flint or opioids, we have to invest some dollars in the fights if we’re going to solve the problems. They’re — they’re in the past. They’re just saying ‘Cut — cut everything. Don’t spend’ even when there’s a national emergency.”
The House initiative — announced by Representative Harold Rogers, Republican of Kentucky and chairman of the Appropriations Committee — would require the administration to redirect $622.1 million from other federal health programs. Much of it would come from money that was approved to fight the Ebola virus and that health officials say is still needed for that purpose.
The White House, which first requested the $1.9 billion in February, has already redirected more than $500 million that had been set aside to counter Ebola, and the office of Paul D. Ryan, the speaker, said that as a result, the Republican legislation would provide a total of $1.2 billion to fight Zika.
The compromise measure that ultimately won enough support to advance was brokered by Senator Roy Blunt, Republican of Missouri, in negotiations with Senator Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington.
Mr. Blunt said the negotiators had scrutinized the White House request and rejected parts of it.
“It really does look carefully at what the administration proposed and eliminate the things that aren’t part of an emergency response to Zika,” he said, adding: “We have trimmed this package back to what really addresses the emergency at this time.”
Mr. Blunt noted that the Senate measure would finance the battle against Zika virus through Sept. 30, 2017, compared with the House measure, which was designed to run only until Sept. 30 of this year.
Dr. Johnny Rullan, a former territorial health secretary for Puerto Rico and now an adviser to the governor for the Zika epidemic, said that federal money was urgently needed to combat the virus on many fronts including public education campaigns stressing that Zika can be transmitted by sex — potentially an even bigger risk than from mosquitoes.