- The Washington Times - Friday, June 19, 2009

President Obama’s $106 billion war-funding bill emerged from Congress on Thursday, ending a protracted battle over Democrats’ inclusion of several unrelated items to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Senate voted 91-5 to pass the bill, which pays for military operations in both countries, boosts spending on efforts to fight flu and directs billions of dollars to the International Monetary Fund.

Four Republicans and one independent voted no.

“Supporting our troops should never be a partisan issue, and I am pleased with the final vote on this measure,” said Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, Hawaii Democrat and chairman of the Appropriations Committee. “Ultimately, both Democrats and Republicans were forced to accept compromises on this bill.”

The vote capped several weeks of contentious debate, with Democratic leaders being forced last week to postpone a vote out of fear they lacked the support to pass the bill.

Republicans in both chambers challenged Democrats’ insertion of $5 billion for the International Monetary Fund, as well as a $1 billion “cash for clunkers” measure that would give consumers a rebate if they trade in old vehicles for more fuel-efficient models.

“What excuse do we have as a government for passing a bill to purchase cars today and then send that bill to our children and our grandchildren as part of the debt which we’re passing on to them? It’s inexcusable,” said Sen. Judd Gregg, New Hampshire Republican.

The House only narrowly passed the legislation Tuesday by a vote of 226-202 after Republicans balked at the IMF money, which they derided as a “global bailout,” prompting a harsh response from Democrats who cited support of the organization by past Republican presidents.

House Democrats added more than $7 billion in funding to help prepare for the H1N1 influenza virus in hopes of drawing some Republican votes.

All but five Republicans, and many antiwar Democrats, voted no.

Democrats accused Republicans of flip-flopping after more than 100 Republicans, who voted for the initial House measure weeks ago, changed their votes after the IMF money was added in the House-Senate conference.

In the Senate, Sens. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, and Joe Lieberman, Connecticut independent, held up the funding until Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid assured them he would schedule a vote on their bill to ban the release of detainee photos. The pair had sought to attach their legislation to the supplemental, but House Democrats blocked that from happening out of fear they would lose votes from liberal Democrats.

Mr. Graham and Mr. Lieberman on Wednesday put aside their objections after speaking with Mr. Reid and officials at the White House, who agreed to an executive order if Congress fails to pass the bill.

Mr. Obama has said this will be the last major supplemental to pay for Iraq and Afghanistan war costs and has promised to budget for the wars through the regular annual appropriations process.

Neither the House nor the Senate included an $80 million request by Mr. Obama to pay for the closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, saying the White House first needs a plan for what it would do with the 235 detainees being held there.

In a separate vote Thursday, the House rejected Republican efforts to keep Mr. Obama from closing the prison, defeating an amendment to a fiscal 2010 spending bill. But the bill does put restrictions and reporting requirements on the transfer of any detainees to the United States and elsewhere.

The bill prevents the release of detainees to U.S. territory during the 2010 budget year but would allow the transfer of detainees for prosecution or detention after Congress has had two months to read the president’s report on how he plans to shut down the prison.

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