- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 30, 2003

The House was poised overnight to pass the president’s $87 billion spending request to fund the war on terror and help reconstruct Iraq.

Earlier in the evening, the House cleared the biggest hurdle by approving rules for debate that allow the bill to be considered under a compressed schedule. Democrats objected, saying they didn’t have time to examine the full bill, but they lost on a 217-197 vote.

Passage of the spending bill itself, though, was considered certain, particularly because of the money included to support U.S. military efforts.

Rep. Ed Royce, California Republican, said a U.S. military commander in Iraq told him the reconstruction money was “the most important ammunition” the troops need.

The House was hurrying to complete the bill in order to send it to the Senate and then on to the president for his signature.

The bill offers the reconstruction money as a grant to Iraq, rather than a loan as many lawmakers wanted. But President Bush lobbied hard for the money to be a grant, and persuaded the negotiators who hammered out a compromise House-Senate bill to accept his position.

It provides $18.6 billion for relief and reconstruction in Iraq, down from $20.3 billion; $1.2 billion for reconstruction in Afghanistan, up from $800 million; and $64.7 billion for resupplying the U.S. military and continuing the war on terror, down slightly from the $65.1 billion the administration requested.

The rest of the money in the package goes to myriad smaller items, such as $500 million for natural disasters like the California wildfires.

Democrats used the debate yesterday to highlight many of their complaints about Mr. Bush, from the search for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction to job losses.

Some opponents said supporting the spending bill was a mistake.

“The Iraq supplemental conference report will continue a failed policy,” said Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio, one of nine Democrats seeking his party’s nomination for president. “This bill is not about supporting the troops. This bill supports the continued occupation of Iraq by the United States.”

Mr. Royce, who just returned from a trip to Iraq, said the bill supplies U.S. troops with the resources they require.

“The need is very urgent,” he said.

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