- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 22, 2004

The House passed a $417 billion appropriations bill to fund the Defense Department yesterday, including $25 billion for fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, even as some lawmakers complained about the lack of long-term cost estimates for the war on terror.

Rep. David R. Obey, Wisconsin Democrat, said he knows the Pentagon has such estimates.

“If this bill fessed up to the full-year costs of funding this war, we would be appropriating at least $50 billion more than we’re funding today,” he said. “No doubt after the election, the public will be told of the installment plan.”

This is the third spending bill Congress has approved to fund the war.

“This package is a package designed to meet this country’s needs in this ever-shrinking and ever-complex world,” said Rep. Jerry Lewis, California Republican and chairman of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee.

The bill passed 403-17, with 16 Democrats and one Republican, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, voting against it.

The bill includes $9.7 billion for missile defense, $1.7 billion for procurement and development of chemical and biological defenses, $4.4 billion for the Joint Strike Fighter program and $710 million for the Joint Unmanned Combat Aerial System.

The money for Iraq and Afghanistan includes $1 billion that the secretary of defense can transfer to other accounts — far less flexibility than the administration sought.

“The bill does not provide the president the flexibility he requested and the Defense Department needs for allocating the funds to the accounts most likely to be under the greatest strain,” the administration said in a statement of policy.

Because the bill is considered must-pass legislation, Republican leaders attached language that would let them raise the federal debt limit without a specific vote to do so.

Democrats objected, saying Republicans were being hypocritical because they opposed similar moves when Democrats controlled the House. But the debt increase passed on a nearly party-line vote when the House approved the rules of debate for the overall bill.

The Senate will take up its own defense appropriations bill as soon as it completes action on the defense authorization bill, which is now on the Senate floor. The appropriations bill passed the Senate Appropriations Committee by unanimous voice vote yesterday afternoon.

Committee Chairman Ted Stevens, Alaska Republican, said this is the first time that a bill has been sent to the floor without a single amendment offered in the subcommittee or full committee.

On the authorization bill, which has been pending for some time, Republicans turned back another attempt to cut missile defense.

An amendment by Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat, to fund a program to find and secure loose nuclear weapons throughout the world by diverting yet-unused money from a missile-defense program was rejected by the Senate in a 56-44 vote.

Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican, attached legislation increasing penalties for obscene imagery and profane language in broadcasts to the bill. His amendment passed 99-1, with only Sen. John B. Breaux, Louisiana Democrat, voting against it.

The Senate also approved an amendment introduced by Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, to encourage the Defense Department to consider first buying American-made products for its needs in areas of food, vehicle parts, recycled and manufactured goods. The amendment passed on a 56-44 vote.

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