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US Senate Approves Defense Spending Bill

07 October 2005

The U.S. Senate Friday unanimously (97-to-0) approved a $445 billion defense spending bill that includes money for continued military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a provision to streamline the Pentagon's interrogation procedures for military prisoners and detainees.

The bill includes $50 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, bringing the total cost of both wars to $350 billion, with most of that spent in Iraq.

Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska, the Republican chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, says the funds are urgently needed.

"We have soldiers and sailors, marines, Coast Guard, they are in the field now," said Mr. Stevens.  "The money to support them is running out."

The bill must now be reconciled with the House-passed version of the legislation, which stipulates slightly less money for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In addition, the Senate version, unlike the House bill, contains a provision that would impose restrictions on the treatment of military prisoners and detainees.  The amendment, sponsored by Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona, a former prisoner of war in Vietnam, would establish the Army field manual as the standard for interrogations, and bar cruel and degrading treatment of anyone in U.S. military custody.

The amendment was a response to last year's prisoner abuse scandal, when photographs surfaced of U.S. military personnel mistreating and abusing detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

The White House has threatened to veto the defense bill if it contains the interrogation amendment, saying the provision would limit the president's ability to fight terrorism.

Although the House defense bill does not contain the amendment, a group of Republicans and Democrats introduced similar legislation limiting military interrogation practices as a separate measure Friday.

On a separate matter, the Senate, by voice vote, gave final approval to a $31 billion homeland security spending bill.  The measure is $1 billion more than President Bush requested.

Senator Robert Byrd, a West Virginia Democrat, praised the bill.

"The conference agreement includes numerous improvements to the president's budget, particularly with regard to border security, air cargo security, improved screening of airline passengers for explosives, funds to hire firefighters, as well as funding to protect the all-hazards emergency management performance grant program," said Mr. Byrd.

The legislation now goes to President Bush for his expected signature

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