- The Washington Times - Friday, May 6, 2005

The House yesterday overwhelmingly approved $82 billion in emergency spending for Iraq and Afghanistan, turning back complaints from some Democrats that the military effort is off course and that billions of dollars slated for the reconstruction effort have gone missing.

The bill, which the Senate is expected to pass next week, tracks closely with what President Bush requested, and brings total war spending since September 11, 2001, to more than $300 billion.

The measure passed the House by a 368-58 vote, with three Republicans, 54 Democrats and one independent voting against it.

“During times of war, the United States Congress has an obligation to act. With this bill, we do just that,” said House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican.

Nearly $76 billion goes to fund the U.S. military, and another $4.2 billion is for a foreign-aid package.

Among the Democrats voting yes were House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland.

Mr. Hoyer said Congress has “a legislative duty as well as a moral responsibility to do everything in our power to ensure that our troops have everything they need to defeat the vicious insurgency in Iraq and to assist the Iraqi people in establishing democracy there.”

But a vocal minority of Democrats opposed the funding.

“I cannot support any more money for the policy in Iraq,” said Rep. Jim McGovern, Massachusetts Democrat. “I am tired of the spin. I am tired of the lack of accountability.”

Though she voted for the bill, Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, New York Democrat, said a special inspector general found that nearly $9 billion has gone missing since the beginning of the war. She called for creation of a commission like that led by Sen. Harry S. Truman, a Democrat, who examined spending during World War II.

“We in this Congress don’t have the courage to insist on the same level of accountability,” she said.

The bill raises to $100,000 the gratuity paid to families of service members killed on active duty and dramatically increases the life-insurance payment. It includes money to help other nations that have joined in fighting in Iraq, and begins to build an embassy in Baghdad.

The bill also includes immigration security measures, such as a crackdown on illegal aliens’ ability to obtain driver’s licenses.

The House passed its original version of the bill March 16 by a 388-43 vote, with three Republicans, one independent and 39 Democrats voting against it. The Senate passed its version by a vote of 99-0 on April 21.

On another spending front yesterday, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jerry Lewis, California Republican, announced spending targets for this year’s 11 appropriations bills, including an actual cut from last year’s levels for the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education bill and the Energy and Water Development bill.

The targets, which Mr. Lewis said probably will be adjusted throughout the appropriations process, call for the big increases in military, veterans’ and homeland security spending.

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