- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 4, 2007

The Senate overwhelmingly approved $3 billion for added border security that includes a 700-mile fence on the Mexico border, as Democrats lost another bid to force a U.S. pullout from Iraq.

The popular border security measure, an amendment to the $459 billion defense appropriations bill, passed 95-1, ensuring Republicans are not put in the awkward position of challenging President Bush’s promised veto of a homeland security bill that includes the same provision.

“It’s a belt-and-suspenders approach,” said Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican, referring to the legislative maneuver used to protect the money for hiring more Border Patrol agents, fencing and observation posts.

The lopsided vote shows the Senate is listening to Americans’ concerns about illegal entry into the U.S., said Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican.

“This is an important provision because it begins to restore some credibility on behalf of the federal government, providing funds to protect the border and enforce our laws,” said Mr. Cornyn.

The border funding also will be used to track down visitors who overstay their visas.

Sen. George V. Voinovich, Ohio Republican and self-described “debt hawk,” cast the lone “no” vote, saying the spending was excessive and more than requested by Mr. Bush. The president has threatened to veto more than half of the annual spending bills for busting the budget he set, but the White House indicated yesterday it’s not opposed to the additional border funding.

Mr. Bush had included similar security measures when his bid to overhaul the nation’s immigration system failed resoundingly in the Senate earlier this summer.

The border vote preceded the Democrat-led Senate’s resounding rejection of a troop withdrawal bill for the second time in two weeks. It failed to pick up any new support, dying 68-28.

The amendment by Sen. Russ Feingold, Wisconsin Democrat, would have cut off funds for U.S. combat operations and limited the mission in Iraq to counterterrorism, force protection and training Iraqi forces.

“It’s long past time for meaningless resolutions and minor policy tweaks,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat and co-sponsor of the bill.

“We need a major change of course in Iraq, one that responsibly brings our troops home, rebuilds the readiness of our military, and returns our focus to fighting a real war on terror against [Osama] bin Laden and his al Qaeda network,” he said.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, said the amendment threatened to erase recent military gains and send a dangerous message to the United States‘ enemies in places such as Iran.

“This amendment in my opinion would embolden an enemy that is literally on the mat,” he said on the Senate floor. “It would send the wrong message to Tehran at a time when they need to hear something different than America is going to leave. They need to hear the message that America is going to stand behind the moderate forces in Iraq.”

Mr. Reid, despite Democrats’ repeated failed bids to force a pullout from Iraq, vows to keep pursuing antiwar legislation, perhaps with other amendments to the defense appropriations bill or later with a $189 billion emergency war-funding bill.

The defense bill under debate, which increases the Pentagon budget by about 10 percent, doesn’t include Mr. Bush’s funding request for the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. It passed last night on a voice vote.

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