Washington Ending dual spending battles with President Bush, the Democratic-controlled Congress passed a $555 billion bill Wednesday that funds the Iraq war well into next year and government agencies through September.
Bush was expected soon to sign the measure, which includes $70 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, after winning concessions from Democrats on Iraq policy and the budget.
The bill, sent to the president after a 272-142 vote, funds 14 Cabinet departments and foreign aid for the budget year that began Oct. 1.
Bush and his Senate GOP allies forced the Iraq money upon anti-war Democrats as the price for permitting the year-end budget deal to pass and be signed. Seventy-eight House Democrats voted for the Iraq money, eager to avoid being seen as not supporting troops in harm's way. But 141 Democrats voted against it.
"This is a blank check," complained Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass. "The new money in this bill represents one cave-in too many. It is an endorsement of George Bush's policy of endless war."
Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., said this week that the $70 billion for the wars means Democrats will not see a need to revisit the issue until May or June.
Democrats tried to use war spending legislation to force a change in Bush's Iraq policy, chiefly by setting a withdrawal goal with dates such as Dec. 15, 2009. But Bush and Republicans held a powerful hand. They knew Democrats would not let money lapse for troops overseas. That allowed a Bush veto in May and GOP stalling tactics to determine the outcome.
The House passed the budget for domestic spending on Monday. After the Senate approved a budget for both domestic and war spending on Tuesday, the House approved the military funds on Wednesday.