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Archive for Friday, March 17, 2006

House OKs $92B for wars, cleanup

March 17, 2006

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— The House voted Thursday to give President Bush $92 billion more for Iraq, Afghanistan and Gulf Coast hurricane relief despite worries about the ballooning costs of the war and the recovery effort.

On a 348-71 vote, Republicans and Democrats joined to pass the measure, eager to demonstrate support for the troops and hurricane reconstruction eight months before the midterm elections.

"Concerns about the deficit and spending are overridden by the urgent issues before us - supporting our troops and helping the hurricane victims," said Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C.

Nineteen Republicans, mostly fiscal conservatives, and 52 Democrats, including longtime war opponents, voted against the measure.

The bulk of the bill, $67.6 billion, would pay for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. It would boost to nearly $400 billion the total spent on the conflicts and operations against terrorism since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The bill also contains $19.2 billion for cleaning up and rebuilding the Gulf Coast after Katrina struck last summer. That would bring total hurricane-related spending to more than $100 billion.

The Senate plans to complete its version of the measure this spring.

The spending bill also includes, in defiance of Bush, a provision that would block Dubai-owned DP World from running or managing terminals at U.S. ports. That ban probably will not make it into the final bill now that the company has promised to sell its U.S. operations in the face of bipartisan congressional pressure.

The president would get most of what he requested. Much of the new war money would pay for operations and maintenance costs, equipment replacement and personnel expenses.

Of the total, $4.8 billion would go for training and equipping Iraqi and Afghan security forces. The administration contends that large numbers of U.S. troops can begin returning home once the Iraqi security forces themselves are able to safeguard their country.

The bill would provide more money for armored vehicles and nearly $2 billion for the Pentagon to develop technology to detect and destroy makeshift roadside bombs.

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