House approves $81.4 billion for Iraq, Afghanistan wars
Figure is within $500 million of Bush request
WASHINGTON -- President Bush got most of the money he wanted for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as the House approved a $81.4 billion measure yesterday, pushing the total cost for fighting terrorism over $300 billion.
With support from both Republicans and Democrats, the House voted, 388 to 43, to send the Senate a bill that's only about $500 million less than what the president requested for military operations. The Senate will consider the spending package next month.
Bush said the House's action -- three days before the two-year anniversary of the US-led invasion of Iraq -- showed ''strong bipartisan support for our troops and for our strategy to win the war on terror."
''The people of Iraq and Afghanistan are building new democracies and defying the terrorists, and America is standing with them," he said.
House majority leader Tom DeLay, Republican of Texas, said the bill will ''send a message to everyone captive to tyranny that their victory is assured, that though the cause of human freedom may stumble, it will never fall."
Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the Democratic leader in the House, was one of 162 Democrats who voted for the measure. But she said its passage ''does not, however, mean that we will forget the mistakes, miscalculations, and misrepresentations that brought us to the point where these billions are necessary."
The bill would provide $76.8 billion for defense-related expenses, with the bulk of the money slated for the Army and the Marine Corps, the two service branches bearing the brunt of the fighting. That's roughly $1.8 billion more than the president's proposal, reflecting a bipartisan commitment to give troops what they need to do their jobs.
In a rebuke of the White House, the House trimmed the president's request for money for Afghan reconstruction projects and State Department programs. The measure also would prohibit any money in the bill from being used to build a sprawling US embassy in Baghdad, despite intense lobbying by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
By scaling back that money, the House sent a signal to the White House that emergency spending packages for the war should only be used to pay for urgent matters.
A White House statement expressed concern about the reductions, particularly for the fortified US diplomatic compound. ''Postponing construction will delay moving our people into more safe, secure, and functional facilities," the statement said.
Excluding the latest spending package, Congress has approved $228 billion since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks for the two wars, the Pentagon's other efforts to hunt terrorists, and rebuilding Iraq and Afghanistan.
Other spending in the House-passed bill includes $656 million in direct assistance for relief and long-term reconstruction for Indian Ocean countries recovering from the Dec. 26 tsunami and $222 million to replenish US military accounts tapped earlier for initial tsunami aid.
Just before yesterday's vote, the House overwhelmingly approved an amendment that prohibited money in the bill from being used for torturing detainees in US custody or for sending detainees to countries that engage in torture. The vote was 420 to 2.