Washington, D.C. The House passed a $630 billion-plus spending bill Wednesday that wraps together a record Pentagon budget with aid for automakers and natural disaster victims, and increased health care funding for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
The year-end budget measure also would lift a quarter-century ban on oil drilling off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. The legislation, which senators are expected to approve and send to President Bush for his signature, is flying under the political radar compared with the White House's contentious plan to bail out Wall Street.
The spending bill, which passed 370-58, is fueled by a need to keep the government running past the Oct. 1 start of the new budget year. Passage also was greased by 2,322 pet projects totaling $6.6 billion.
The measure is dominated by $488 billion for the Pentagon, $40 billion for the Homeland Security Department and $73 billion for veterans' programs and military base construction projects - amounting to about 60 percent of the budget work Congress must pass each year.
Earlier this year, Congress provided $70 billion for U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan; more will be needed by mid-2009.