Senate Approves FY17 Funding for the VA, Transportation & Housing

Appropriations Measure Also Provides Funding to Combat Zika Virus

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) today praised Senate progress on FY2017 appropriations bills with the Senate today completing work on two bills to fund veterans’ benefits, transportation infrastructure and the American response to the Zika virus.

The Senate today voted to approve a spending package (HR.2577), which includes the FY2017 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD) Appropriations Act, the FY2017 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs (MilCon-VA) Appropriations Act, and $1.1 billion for medical and public health preparedness and response capabilities related to the Zika virus.  The legislation was approved on an 89-8 vote.

“Senators have now worked through three appropriations bills and I look forward to additional cooperation as other FY2017 bills are brought to the floor,” Cochran said.  “The appropriations measure approved today makes fiscally responsible investments in programs of national importance and reflects the thorough oversight and line-by-line analysis of the federal budget that is the responsibility of the Appropriations Committee.”

The THUD section of the legislation appropriates $56.474 billion in discretionary spending, an $827 million decrease from FY2016 current enacted levels and $2.9 billion below the President’s budget request.  The THUD allocation accounts for certain rescissions and estimated receipts that are not reflected in the fiscal year 2016 total.  The bill also ignores gimmicks in the President’s budget request that would shift $7.4 billion in certain accounts from discretionary to mandatory spending.

The MilCon-VA section of the bill provides $83 billion in discretionary funding, $3.1 billion above the FY2016 level.  For the Department of Veterans Affairs, this increase represents a 4.8 percent increase over the FY2016 level, including increases for health care, benefit claims processing, the Board of Veterans Appeals, the VA Inspector General, medical and prosthetic research, and information technology.

On a 68-30 vote, the Senate agreed to an amendment to provide $1.1 billion to increase U.S. efforts to combat the Zika virus, which can be particularly harmful to infants and pregnant women.  U.S. health officials predict that Zika-carrying mosquitoes could pose a threat to Americans in many states, particularly in the Southeast United States.

“The agreement to fund our response to the Zika virus was developed in a bipartisan and good-faith manner.  It would provide U.S. and international agencies with resources to address the immediate threats posed by the Zika virus to the Unites States and other nations,” Cochran said.  “Combined with the use of existing unobligated funding, this package represents a responsible response to the Zika problem.”

In addition the MilCon-VA and THUD appropriations bills, the Senate earlier this month approved the FY2017 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill.  Another three bills have been approved by the committee and are available for consideration by the full Senate.