Senate passes broad spending bill with $1.1B in Zika funds

The Senate approved a broad appropriations bill Thursday, including $1.1 billion in Zika virus funds. 

Senators voted 89-8 on the merged Transportation-Housing and Urban Development, military construction and Veterans Affairs spending bill. The overwhelming vote came despite a veto threat from the White House.  


GOP Sens. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerIt's time for Biden's Cuba GOP lawmaker patience runs thin with Trump tactics Former GOP senator: Republicans cannot let Trump's 'reckless' post-election claims stand MORE (Tenn.), Mike CrapoMichael (Mike) Dean CrapoTrump announces new tranche of endorsements Biden convenes bipartisan meeting on cancer research Senate panel unanimously advances top Biden economic nominees MORE (Idaho), Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeFormer GOP lawmaker: Republican Party 'engulfed in lies and fear' Grassley to vote against Tanden nomination Klain on Manchin's objection to Neera Tanden: He 'doesn't answer to us at the White House' MORE (Ariz.), James Lankford (Okla.), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeWhite House downplays surprising February jobs gain, warns US far from recovery White House open to reforming war powers amid bipartisan push Garland's AG nomination delayed by GOP roadblocks MORE (Utah), Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulWhite House open to reforming war powers amid bipartisan push House approves George Floyd Justice in Policing Act Bipartisan group of senators introduces bill to rein in Biden's war powers MORE (Ky.), Jim RischJim Elroy RischMurkowski votes with Senate panel to advance Haaland nomination 11 GOP senators slam Biden pick for health secretary: 'No meaningful experience' Biden to redirect .4M in aid to Myanmar, sanction key military figures MORE (Idaho) and Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsTanden withdraws nomination as Biden budget chief Manchin flexes muscle in 50-50 Senate Udalls: Haaland criticism motivated 'by something other than her record' MORE (Ala.) voted against the legislation. Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersLawmakers, activists remember civil rights icons to mark 'Bloody Sunday' Progressives' majority delusions politically costly Sinema pushes back on criticism of her vote against minimum wage MORE (I-Vt.), Barbara BoxerBarbara Levy BoxerTrump administration halting imports of cotton, tomatoes from Uighur region of China Biden inaugural committee to refund former senator's donation due to foreign agent status Questions and answers about the Electoral College challenges MORE (D-Calif.), Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward Cruz Cruz puts hold on Biden's CIA nominee It will be Vice (or) President Harris against Gov. DeSantis in 2024 — bet on it Senate rejects Cruz effort to block stimulus checks for undocumented immigrants MORE (R-Texas) missed the vote.

The legislation includes more than $190 billion for military construction and veterans and more than $114 billion for transportation and housing programs.

Passage of the bill comes after senators agreed earlier Thursday to attach the Zika money to the spending bill, setting themselves up for a showdown with the House.

Democrats ultimately supported the move after being blocked from passing President Obama’s full $1.9 billion request earlier as part of the massive bill or as a separate piece of legislation.

Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayGOP votes in unison against COVID-19 relief bill Murray blasts GOP measure on transgender athletes: 'Have a little bit of heart' Senate inches toward COVID-19 vote after marathon session MORE (D-Wash.), who spearheaded the Zika proposal, said Thursday she was "disappointed that Republicans refused to work with us to fully fund the president's emergency supplemental proposal."

"It shouldn't have taken us so long to get to this point, but I am pleased that this will move us to a down payment," she said.

But the Zika money drew conservative ire because the costs weren't offset. The House’s $622 million in Zika money is partially paid for by reallocating funding originally meant to combat the Ebola virus.  

Senators also defeated a controversial amendment from Lee that would have defunded HUD’s Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule.

Lee warned the Obama administration’s regulation would have turned the federal government into a “national zoning board.”

“The Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule — which my amendment would defund — is equal parts condescension and willful blindness,” the Utah Republican said Thursday. “[It] is the epitome of the paternalism that informs so much of what happens in Washington, D.C. today.”

But Democrats warned that Lee’s amendment would undercut the federal government’s efforts to make sure housing isn’t based on things including race, gender or religion.

Instead, senators backed an amendment from Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSenate rejects Sanders minimum wage hike Murkowski votes with Senate panel to advance Haaland nomination OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Interior reverses Trump policy that it says restricted science | Collins to back Haaland's Interior nomination | Republicans press Biden environment nominee on Obama-era policy MORE, which the Maine Republican said would help make sure HUD can’t be a “national zoning authority for every neighborhood in our country.”

The White House threatened this week to veto the legislation, which still needs to be merged with legislation from the House, if it reaches the president’s desk in its current form.

"The administration strongly objects to the inclusion of problematic ideological provisions that are beyond the scope of funding legislation," the Office of Management and Budget said in a statement this week.

The legislation includes measures blocking the president from closing the Guantánamo Bay Naval Station or using funding to build alternative locations within the United States to house detainees.

Sen. Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsLobbying world Pat Roberts joins lobbying firm weeks after Senate retirement Senate swears-in six new lawmakers as 117th Congress convenes MORE (R-Kan.), a fierce critic of Obama’s plan to close the facility in Cuba, praised those restrictions.

“Although the clock may have run out on the president, I will continue to oppose his ongoing attempts to transfer the detainees at every opportunity,” he said in a statement.