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U.S. House Passes $82 Billion Supplemental Spending Bill

04 May 2005

Includes funding for military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan; tsunami relief

By Merle D. Kellerhals, Jr.
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- The U.S. House of Representatives easily approved an $82 billion 2005 emergency supplemental spending bill that would provide critical funding for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, foreign aid programs and humanitarian tsunami relief.

The House approved the measure by a vote of 368-58 on May 5. The Senate, which has been on a weeklong recess, is expected to give swift approval of the bill the week of May 9, before sending it to President Bush to be signed into law.

A conference committee resolved differences between House and Senate versions of the spending bill May 3 and sent the compromise back to the respective chambers for approval.  Under congressional rules, neither chamber could amend the conference committee bill.

The measure includes:
· $75.9 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan;
· $4.1 billion for international security programs;
· $1.2 billion for domestic counterterrorism programs;
· $907.3 million for Indian Ocean tsunami relief; and
· $123.9 million for other emergency appropriations.

Even though the overall spending bill matches President Bush's original request, the congressional result would change how the money is to be allocated.

The key sticking point that delayed passage of the bill has been over amendments in both chambers on immigration and border security measures.  The bill contains provisions that would prevent states from issuing standard driver's licenses to illegal immigrants, and that would override environmental regulations that have blocked construction of a border fence near San Diego, California, and the U.S.-Mexican border.

The bill also includes a provision to make it more difficult for immigrants to win asylum in the United States based on persecution or human-rights abuses from their home countries. It also includes a provision to lift the cap on the number of H-2B visas for temporary seasonal workers.

The bill is the fifth emergency-spending plan Bush has sent to Congress for military operations since the 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.  And it is the second-largest supplemental appropriations measure Congress has ever passed. The overall cost of the two conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, together with other efforts to fight terrorism worldwide over the past four years, has surpassed $300 billion.

The measure's military spending total of $75.9 billion includes $37.1 billion for military operations and maintenance spending, $17.4 billion for personnel and $17.4 billion for new weapons purchases.

The bulk of the defense funds would go to the U.S. Army and Marine Corps, the two military services bearing the brunt of the combat operations.  The money would pay for soldiers' body armor, medical supplies, night-vision devices, communications equipment, weapons, ammunition, radio jammers to thwart attempts by Iraqi insurgents to explode remote-control bombs and mines, new cargo trucks and advanced armor kits for combat vehicles.

On the foreign affairs side, the bill would provide $230 million to support coalition partners with economic and military aid, and $592 million to build a new American embassy in Baghdad.

The State Department also would receive funding for international peacekeeping, including missions in Sudan and Haiti.  The bill would appropriate about $400 million for humanitarian assistance in Darfur, Sudan, and $920 million for all peacekeeping programs.

The bill also includes a total of $907.3 million for Indian Ocean tsunami relief and support operations.  Of that total, $656 million would be for the Tsunami Recovery and Reconstruction Fund, and another $25.4 million would go to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Geological Survey for tsunami-detection buoys in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico to provide warning of approaching tsunamis.

And $226 million would be provided to reimburse the U.S. military for expenses incurred in providing emergency relief to victims of the December 26, 2004, earthquake and tsunami that struck the Indian Ocean region.

The bill also would provide:

· $1.7 billion for relief and reconstruction projects in Afghanistan and $1.3 billion to train and equip Afghan security forces and the Afghan Army.

· $635 million for increased border security and enforcement.  The funding would be used to hire, train, equip and support an additional 500 Border Patrol agents, 50 new immigration investigators, 168 new immigration-enforcement agents and deportation officers, and 1,950 additional detention beds in various law enforcement centers around the country.

· $200 million in economic and infrastructure assistance to the Palestinian territories, of which $50 million would be provided for assistance to Israel in improving the efficiency and security of the flow of people and goods from the territories into Israel.  The bill would require the Government Accountability Office to audit U.S. aid for the Palestinian territories and would allocate $5 million for an independent audit of the Palestinian Authority.

· $240 million for international food assistance.

· $250 million in foreign military assistance, with $150 million for Pakistan and $100 million for Jordan to support ongoing counterterror operations.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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