- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 16, 2005

ASSOCIATED PRESS

President Bush got most of the money he wanted for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as the House approved an $81.4 billion measure yesterday that also cracks down on illegal immigrants’ ability to use driver’s licenses.

With support from both Republicans and Democrats, the House voted 388-43 to send the Senate the emergency-spending bill that’s only about $500 million less than what the president requested for military operations.

The Senate will consider the spending package next month.

Mr. Bush said the House’s action — three days before the two-year anniversary of the start of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq — showed “strong bipartisan support for our troops and for our strategy to win the war on terror.”

“The people of Iraq and Afghanistan are building new democracies and defying the terrorists, and America is standing with them,” he said.

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Texas Republican, said the bill will “send a message to everyone captive to tyranny that their victory is assured, that though the cause of human freedom may stumble, it will never fall.”

California Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader in the House, was one of 162 Democrats who voted for the measure. But she said its passage “does not, however, mean that we will forget the mistakes, miscalculations and misrepresentations that brought us to the point where these billions are necessary.”

The bill would provide $76.8 billion for defense-related expenses, with the bulk of the money slated for the Army and the Marine Corps, the two service branches bearing the brunt of the fighting. That’s roughly $1.8 billion more than the president’s proposal, reflecting a bipartisan commitment to give troops what they need to do their jobs.

The spending measure also included language passed last month by the House that says any state identification, including driver’s licenses, used for federal purposes like boarding an aircraft must require that the holder be in the country legally. It is considered a strong incentive for 12 states to change laws allowing the issuance of licenses to illegal aliens.

The bill also allows for filling in of a 4-mile gap in the border fence near San Diego and limits asylum claims.

In a rebuke of the White House, the House trimmed the president’s request for money for Afghan reconstruction projects and State Department programs. The measure also would prohibit any money in the bill from being used to build a sprawling U.S. embassy in Baghdad, despite intense lobbying by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

In a statement, the White House expressed concerns about the reductions, particularly for the fortified U.S. diplomatic compound. “Postponing construction will delay moving our people into more safe, secure and functional facilities,” the White House said.

The House-passed bill also includes $656 million in direct assistance for relief and long-term reconstruction for Indian Ocean countries and $590 million to train police and to battle narcotics in Afghanistan.

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