- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 19, 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate is sending President Barack Obama a critical budget bill that combines money for the Pentagon with additional help for the jobless.

Senators meeting Saturday in the midst of a snow storm are clear their plate of unfinished business as the legislative calendar runs out for 2009.

The 88-10 vote means the Senate can return to the acrimonious debate on health care. Democrats hope to pass that bill before Christmas.

The $626 billion defense bill contains $128 billion for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and a 3.4 percent pay raise for the military.

It includes two-month extensions of unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless. There are health care subsidies for people out of work, along with money for highways and transit systems.

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