- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 4, 2006

[1:27 p.m.]

The Republican Senate approved emergency legislation today to spend $109 billion on the Iraq war, the rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina and a host of other nonessential projects.

On a 78-20 vote, the final bill came in at about $14 billion more than requested by President Bush, who said he will veto the bill unless it is significantly pared back. But the Republican Senate rejected nearly all efforts to cut costs.

Last week, Mr. Bush vowed to veto the spending bill if it exceeded the $94.5 billion he requested in emergency spending for Iraq, Katrina and efforts to combat the avian flu.

The next day, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist - who said he had urged Mr. Bush to threaten the veto - joined 29 other Republicans to kill one amendment that would have cut out a $700 million project to relocate a private rail line in Mississippi that had been inserted into the bill by two top Republicans.

Conservatives took some solace, however, in nearly $1.9 billion that was added to beef up border security, paying for more border patrol agents, trucks, helicopters, new stations, upgraded communications and fencing for high-traffic areas. Over the objection of Democrats, Republicans managed to pay for those new cost with cuts elsewhere in the bill.

Leading the charge to cut non-emergency spending from the bill was Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican, who forced several votes that were uncomfortable for fellow Republicans claiming the mantle of conservatism.

Among his successes were stripping out $15 million earmarked for food promotion strategies.

Earlier this year, the House approved similar emergency legislation to spend $92 billion strictly on Iraq and Katrina.

The bare House bill and the fattened Senate version will now go to negotiators from both chambers who will try to reconcile the two bills.

Majority Leader John A. Boehner said today that the House would not consider any final bill that was $1 over Mr. Bush’s request.

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