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.  

{mosads}GOP Sens. Bob Corker (Tenn.), Mike Crapo (Idaho), Jeff Flake (Ariz.), James Lankford (Okla.), Mike Lee (Utah), Rand Paul (Ky.), Jim Risch (Idaho) and Jeff Sessions (Ala.) voted against the legislation. Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Ted Cruz (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 Murray (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 Collins, 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 Roberts (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.

Tags Barbara Boxer Bernie Sanders Bob Corker Jeff Flake Jeff Sessions Jim Risch Mike Crapo Mike Lee Pat Roberts Patty Murray Rand Paul Susan Collins Ted Cruz
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