- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 4, 2006

The Senate approved “emergency” legislation yesterday to spend $109 billion on the Iraq war, the rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina and a host of nonessential projects.

The final bill, which passed by a vote of 77-21, came in about $14 billion more than President Bush requested.

The president has said he will veto the bill unless spending is pared.

House Republicans immediately rejected the bloated proposal.

“The House will not take up an emergency supplemental spending bill for Katrina and the war in Iraq that spends one dollar more than what the president asked for. Period,” House Majority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, told reporters.

House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican, deemed the bill “dead on arrival.”

Mr. Bush last week told Congress that he would reject the spending bill if it exceeded the $94.5 billion he requested in emergency spending for Iraq, Katrina and preparations for a flu pandemic.

Thirty-five Republicans sent a letter to Mr. Bush Wednesday saying they would support such a veto.

Later Wednesday, 13 Republicans who had signed the letter — including Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee and Majority Whip Mitch McConnell of Kentucky — killed an amendment that would have removed a $700 million project to relocate a private rail line in Mississippi that had been inserted in the bill by two top Republicans. Conservatives fell short of an effort to remove the project by just one vote.

“I’m delighted President Bush has pledged to veto this bill because Congress has, once again, been unable to resist the temptation to load up a must-pass bill with pork,” said Sen. Tom Coburn, the Oklahoma Republican who led the effort to strip additional spending. He ultimately opposed the bill.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, expressed delight in the split of Senate Republicans, who are campaigning on a platform of fiscal conservatism.

“Americans are realizing that Democrats are the party of fiscal responsibility,” he said.

All 42 Democrats who voted were joined by 34 Republicans and the chamber’s one independent in supporting the bill.

Conservatives took solace in nearly $1.9 billion that was added to bolster border security. That money will be used for more Border Patrol agents, trucks, helicopters, new stations, upgraded communications and fencing targeted at high-traffic areas. Over the objection of Democrats, Republicans offset those costs with cuts elsewhere in the bill.

Earlier this year, the House approved similar emergency legislation to spend $92 billion strictly on the Iraq war and Katrina relief. It was later that Mr. Bush requested more than $2 billion to prepare for a major flu outbreak. The bare House bill and the fattened Senate version now will go to a conference of negotiators from both chambers, who will try to reconcile the differences between the two bills.

Sen. John E. Sununu, New Hampshire Republican, supported each effort to cut spending. “Most senators would probably confide that the bill is going to be reduced,” he said.

Conservatives would be heartened by the first veto of Mr. Bush’s presidency.

“He’d be a hero to an awful lot of people if he stands up and vetoes this,” said Sen. John Cornyn, the Texas Republican who also supported cutting spending from the bill. “I think there’s a lot of people in this country concerned about runaway spending.”

Mr. Coburn noted that lawmakers will have to answer to voters this year.

“We are all subject to the judgment that comes down from the taxpayers,” he said. “If we flippantly disregard the president’s insistence that we make hard choices, the judgment of the taxpayers will not be kind to any of us.”

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