- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 10, 2005

The Senate unanimously passed the $82 billion emergency war-spending bill yesterday, sending it on to the president, though some senators complained they had no chance to object to immigration-security measures that were tacked on to the legislation.

President Bush is expected to sign the bill, which brings the total United States spending commitment to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq since September 11 to about $300 billion.

The bill passed the House last week.

Of yesterday’s bill, $75.9 billion goes to defense, nearly $1 billion more than Mr. Bush requested, and $4.1 billion goes to international assistance, about $1.5 billion less than the president sought. The bill’s total is almost exactly what Mr. Bush proposed.

“This legislation guarantees that our military personnel will have the equipment and resources they need to get the job done and that our State Department personnel are able to conduct our foreign policy effectively,” said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican. “It also includes valuable provisions that will ensure our homeland remains safe and secured against outside threats.”

But not all senators supported the immigration-security provisions, which first passed the House as the Real I.D. Act in February. The immigration-security provisions were attached automatically to the House version of the spending bill, and then modified by the House-Senate conference.

“I’m outraged that the Republican leadership, first in the House and now unfortunately in the Senate, would put this seriously flawed act into this emergency supplemental act,” said Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, who protested both provisions and the way they were added.

The Real I.D. Act sets standards to prevent illegal aliens from obtaining driver’s licenses and gives judges more leeway to reject asylum claims. Some Democrats took the opportunity to question the recent direction of Mr. Bush’s policy in Iraq.

“The unfortunate truth seems to be that more than two years after President Bush declared the end of major combat operations — remember ‘mission accomplished’ — Iraq has a limited capacity to defend itself or govern itself,” said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat.

Some Democrats, though, embraced the administration’s policy.

“Our engagement in Iraq is crucial and in the best bipartisan traditions of American foreign policy that runs from Democrat Woodrow Wilson through Republican President George Bush,” said Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, though he strongly opposed the Real I.D. provisions.

The bill also:

• Includes $550 million to hire new Border Patrol agents and create more detention space for illegal-alien detainees, paid for with $450 million in new funds and another $100 million cut from other parts of homeland security.

• Raises the death gratuity paid to troops killed in combat zones from slightly more than $12,000 to $100,000 and increases the maximum survivor’s benefit from service members’ life insurance from $250,000 to $400,000.

• Allocates a total of $907 million to aid victims of December’s tsunami in South Asia.

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