- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 17, 2009

House Democrats narrowly pushed through a compromise $106 billion war-funding bill Tuesday, over the objections of anti-war liberals in their own party and Republicans opposed to the inclusion of $5 billion for the International Monetary Fund.

More than 100 House Republicans voted for the funds when the chamber first approved the bill several weeks ago. But virtually all of the minority Republicans withdrew their support after congressional Democrats - at the urging of President Obama - inserted spending for the IMF into the final version of the bill, deriding the money as a “global bailout.”

Meanwhile, nearly three dozen liberal Democrats balked at approving more funds for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan because the bill lacked a firm timetable to withdraw the troops.

But in the end, Democratic leaders garnered enough votes to pass the bill by a margin of 226-202 - with 32 Democrats joining all but eight Republicans in voting no - as lawmakers on both sides of the aisle chided each other for putting politics before the troops in the field.

Democrats were quick to point out that the Republicans included unrelated items in war-funding bills when they were in power. They also shrugged off Republican criticisms that some of the IMF funding could end up in the hands of terrorist-supporting regimes such as Iran.

The bill was considered a must-pass measure, as the Pentagon warned that it could face funding shortages as early as next month in Iraq and Afghanistan if no new money was approved.

“If it were a Republican president asking for this, this bill would pass with some 368 votes again,” said Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat and House majority leader. “Why? Because Democrats would join in the Republican president’s request as we have in the past and say this is for America’s security, for international security, and we’ll support it.”

Republicans in turn accused Democrats of endangering U.S. forces by stripping a Senate amendment that would bar the release of photos of purported abuse of detainees by U.S. military and security forces, as well as a provision to block the transfer of terrorism-suspect detainees from the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the U.S.

“When this House allows for that transfer, that says we are willing to take on untold risk at the expense of the security of the people our troops are trying to protect,” said Rep. Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican and minority whip.

Also added to the war-spending bill was $7.7 billion to help the nation prepare for an outbreak of the H1N1 virus, the so-called swine flu. The money was inserted at the last minute by Democrats in an apparent effort to attract more Republican votes after the World Health Organization recently declared a pandemic related to the flu.

The conference report also includes $1 billion for a “cash-for-clunkers” program that would give consumers rebates to trade in their old cars for more fuel-efficient vehicles.

The Senate is expected to take up the conference report later this week. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, on Tuesday rejected concerns over the release of images of detainee abuse, arguing that Mr. Obama has made clear his intentions to block the release of the photos.

“If someone wants to vote against the bill, [against] funding the troops, when there’s absolutely no concern about those photographs,” Mr. Reid said, “it would be simply an excuse.”