September 12, 2016 / 9:31 PM / 3 years ago

Obama hopeful on spending, Zika funds after meeting Congress leaders

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama said after meeting with the top four congressional leaders on Monday he was encouraged that lawmakers would be able to pass short term spending legislation to keep the government open during the 2017 fiscal year.

Democrat Obama said he was hopeful about reaching agreements with the Republican-majority Congress on funding to fight the Zika virus and for disaster relief after flooding in Louisiana.

The president met with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker Paul Ryan, both Republicans, and Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi on issues that have been a struggle as his second term winds down.

“My hope is that by the time Congress adjourns before the election that we will have an agreement in place to fund the government and that our Zika funding will be taken care of,” Obama told reporters in the Oval Office. Obama will leave office on Jan. 20.

Obama said he hoped Congress can make “modest progress” before the Nov. 8 elections and he was “even more hopeful we can get some things done,” after them.

Congress must pass a temporary spending bill by Sept. 30 or much of the federal government will shut down. Shortly before the meeting with Obama, McConnell said congressional leaders were making progress on legislation on temporary spending and Zika. McConnell said he expected to advance the legislation in the Senate this week.

Congressional leaders are considering attaching as much as $1.1 billion in Zika spending to the temporary spending bill. In February, Obama had asked Congress to approve $1.9 billion in emergency funds to fight Zika with diagnostic tools and vaccines, but disagreements over side issues related to abortion have led to divisions about full funding.

Ryan spoke at the meeting about his desire to come to a speedy resolution on short term spending legislation that includes funding for Zika, an aide to the speaker said. Ryan also made clear his objections to doing a massive spending bill later in the year, the aide said.

Reporting by Timothy Gardner, Ayesha Rascoe and Richard Cowan; editing by Grant McCool

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