(Bloomberg) — The U.S. Senate passed its spending bill for transportation, veterans and fighting the Zika virus Thursday, continuing a rare period of appropriations productivity.
Included in the bill passed 89-8 is a provision allowing Department of Veterans Affairs doctors to recommend medical marijuana to patients in states that have legalized it. The House backed the same provision earlier in the day.
Republican Sen. Steve Daines of Montana sponsored the provision and said the House vote was encouraging. “A veteran, whether they walk into a VA facility or a non-VA facility, should have the same options available to them,” he said.
The package also would provide new coverage for fertility treatments for veterans.
“This is a chance for us to support our veterans and the dreams they fought for, to have a family,” said Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, regarding the fertility provision.
The Senate, which has also passed its energy and water spending bill, is ahead of the House on spending measures for the first time in recent memory, as Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky hopes to show off a Senate at work with his majority at stake in the November election. The bill passed by the Senate includes $190.1 billion in discretionary and mandatory funds for military construction and veterans, and $114.2 billion for transportation and housing programs.
The bill, H.R. 2577, includes $1.1 billion in emergency spending to combat the Zika virus, including money to help develop a vaccine. That’s short of the $1.9 billion the White House requested but nearly double the $622 million funding transfer passed by the House Wednesday night. The smaller House package faces a veto threat.
Democrats had sought to pass the Zika funding as a separate bill, but Republican Whip John Cornyn of Texas blocked those efforts Wednesday after Democrats refused to agree to Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) cuts in return.