Senate approves $70B for war spending - East Valley Tribune: Nation / World

Senate approves $70B for war spending

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Posted: Friday, September 29, 2006 6:12 am | Updated: 4:26 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

WASHINGTON - The Senate unanimously approved $70 billion more for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan Friday as part of a record Pentagon budget.

The bill, now on its way to the White House for President Bush's signature, totals $448 billion. It was passed by a 100-0 vote after minimal debate.

Approval by a comfortable margin came despite intense partisan divisions over the course of the Iraq war, which is costing about $8 billion a month. Another infusion of money will be needed next spring.

At the White House, President Bush said he would sign the bill and thanked Congress "for passing legislation that will provide our men and women in uniform with the necessary resources to protect our country and win the war on terror."

"As our troops risk their lives to fight terrorism," he said, "this bill will ensure they are prepared to defeat today's enemies and address tomorrows threats. I look forward to signing this bill into law."

The House-Senate compromise bill provides $378 billion for core Pentagon programs, about a 5 percent increase, though slightly less than President Bush asked for. The $70 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan is a down payment on war costs the White House has estimated will hit $110 billion for the budget year beginning Oct. 1.

Congress has now approved $507 billion for Iraq, Afghanistan and heightened security at overseas military bases since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, according to the Congressional Research Service. The war in Iraq has cost $379 billion and the conflict in Afghanistan now totals $97 billion.

The Iraq war continues to be unpopular with voters, according to opinion polls, but even Democratic opponents of the war voted for the Pentagon measure, which provides funding for body armor and other support for U.S. troops overseas.

"America is in deep trouble in Iraq," said Edward Kennedy, D-Mass. "The continuing violence and death is ominous.... Militias are growing in strength and continue to operate outside the law. Death squads are rampant."

The growing price tag of the Iraq conflict is partly driven by the need to repair and replace military equipment worn out in harsh, dusty conditions in Iraq and Afghanistan or destroyed in battle. Almost $23 billion was approved for Army, Marine Corps and National Guard equipment such as helicopters, armored Humvees, Bradley armored fighting vehicles, radios and night-vision equipment.

Lawmakers allotted $1.9 billion for new jammers to counter improvised explosive devices in Iraq and Afghanistan and $1 billion is provided for body armor and other personal protective gear.

There is also a stack of pet projects for lawmakers' homes states and districts, including $372 million obtained for Hawaii, home of Daniel Inouye, top Democrat on the defense appropriations panel.

"There are 2,000 earmarks in the bill directed by Members of Congress - somewhere around $8 billion - and a large portion of those don't have anything to do with the mission of the Defense Department," said Tom Coburn, R-Okla.

The legislation would be the first of 11 spending bills to clear Congress for the new budget year. The homeland security bill is the only other ready to pass before Congress leaves Washington this weekend. Nine bills funding domestic programs and foreign aid will wait until a lame duck session. That means delays in funding increases for veterans health care.

So little progress has been made on other bills that the Pentagon measure also carries a stopgap funding bill to keep open through Nov. 17 agencies whose funding bills won't have passed. Only the homeland security measure is expected to also pass before Congress leaves Washington to campaign.

The core bill contains $86 billion for personnel costs, enough to support 482,000 Army soldiers and 175,000 Marines. That would provide for a 2.2 percent pay increase for the military, as Bush requested in his February budget.

The bill provides $120 billion for operations and maintenance costs, just less than the Pentagon request. And $81 billion goes for procurement of new weapons, with $76 billion dedicated to research and development costs.

That's still not enough for the White House, which requested $4 billion more. But House appropriators diverted that money to ease cuts in domestic programs. Earlier this year, the Senate passed a version shifting $9 billion to domestic programs but backed off in the face of a White House veto threat.

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