- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 14, 2003

The Senate gave the president a show of support yesterday when Republicans, joined by a handful of Democrats, voted to keep Iraqi reconstruction money a grant rather than tie it to Iraq’s future oil revenues.

The vote was 57-39 to table the oil proposal, a procedural move that defeated the amendment. Seven Democrats joined all but one Republican in voting to table the amendment.

Earlier in the day, Democratic leaders had predicted the votes on financing reconstruction would be among their best chances to alter the bill. After the vote, Republicans said it was an indicator that the president’s package is in good shape.

“That’s a good sign, and I expected the result. I think it’s very important we hold the line on what the president’s asking for here,” said Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican. “By the time we vote on this on Thursday or Friday, it will be the policy the president wants.”

The overall bill spends about $67 billion on replenishing the U.S. military and continuing the global war on terrorism and $20.3 billion on rebuilding Iraq.

Sen. Byron L. Dorgan, North Dakota Democrat, had proposed financing the reconstruction money through future Iraqi oil revenues rather than having U.S. taxpayers foot the bill.

“We know that somebody will borrow the money. Whether it’s the United States or Iraq is the question that we will answer this week,” said Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat.

But opponents argued it was the wrong message to send.

“I think it is unwise, uncharacteristic of the greatness and strength of America, and in many ways could increase the risk that we may cause to young Americans who are fighting in defense of freedom in Iraq and trying to help that country begin the process of democracy in a free society,” said Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican.

And Republicans portrayed the vote as a straight show of support for Mr. Bush.

“If we want to support the president’s efforts, we will vote against this amendment,” said Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi, the second-ranking Republican on the Appropriations Committee.

Several Republicans who had earlier indicated they were open to loans or other financing yesterday voted against Mr. Dorgan’s proposal, saying the administration had convinced them Iraq can’t be saddled with that burden right now.

In the final vote, Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell of Colorado was the only Republican to oppose the president’s position. The seven Democrats who backed Mr. Bush were: Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Thomas R. Carper of Delaware, Maria Cantwell of Washington, Mark Dayton of Minnesota, Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut, Russell D. Feingold of Wisconsin and Zell Miller of Georgia.

The House Appropriations Committee rejected a similar amendment last week to have Iraq finance the reconstruction after the administration lobbied heavily.

Earlier in the day yesterday the Senate voted against diverting $5 billion of the Iraqi money to U.S. schools, veterans and transportation projects. The Senate also rejected a Democrat-led effort to create a medal for serving in Iraq, with Republicans arguing that decision should be left to the Pentagon.

Still to come are amendments on the transparency of rebuilding contracts and withholding $15 billion in reconstruction money until the president delivers certain reports and meets certain benchmarks.

Charles Hurt contributed to this report.

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