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US Senate Passes Bill to Fund Military Operations in Iraq, Afghanistan

04 May 2006

The U.S. Senate has approved a $109 billion spending measure to fund military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and the rebuilding of the hurricane-ravaged Gulf coast. But the action Thursday came despite a veto threat by President Bush, who argues the package contains money for expensive projects he did not request.

The bill, passed by a 78 to 20 vote, contains $66 billion for the military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and $29 billion for hurricane relief.

The chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Thad Cochran, a Mississippi Republican, praised the measure:

"It is very important to the protection of the security interests of the people of the United States," he said.

But the measure also includes $14 billion dollars more in spending on other programs that President Bush says he will not accept, including farm disaster aid and assistance for the Gulf Coast seafood industry.

The president is under pressure this congressional election year from conservatives who make up the base of his Republican party to hold down federal spending and take control of an expanding budget deficit.

Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican and possible presidential contender in 2008, also complained about the excess spending in the bill:

"I know my colleagues have the highest hopes for the success and safety of our troops, and for the speedy recovery of the hurricane-ravaged Gulf," said Senator McCain. "But when the American people hear of these special interest riders, they are going to question our priorities, and rightly so."

But Senator Robert Byrd, the top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, argued Congress controls the power of the purse, not the president:

"Nowhere is it written in stone, nowhere is it etched in brass, on golden pillars, that this supplemental, which is likely to be the only supplemental considered for this fiscal year, has to be limited to the cost of the war and Hurricane Katrina," said Mr. Byrd.

The legislation must be reconciled with a House-passed measure, which does not include the extra spending contained in the Senate version, before a final bill is sent to President Bush. Lawmakers say they expect difficult negotiations.

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