House of Representatives to vote on $70B for Iraq, Afghanistan in bitter blow to anti-war Democrats
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Democratic-controlled House is expected to give President Bush an end-of-session victory in his yearlong battle with anti-war lawmakers over Iraq by approving $70 billion for U.S. military operations there and in Afghanistan.
The vote today also would represent the final step in sealing a deal between Democrats and Bush over how much money to provide domestic agencies whose budgets are set each year by Congress. The Iraq funds have been bundled with an omnibus appropriations measure to create a massive $555 billion package that Bush has signaled he will sign.
Providing the war funds was a bitter pill for most Democrats, who on Monday sent the Senate a bill limited to $31 billion for U.S. operations in Afghanistan, which have much broader support than the unpopular mission in Iraq.
That effort was doomed in the face of a Bush veto promise and a filibuster by Senate Republicans. The Senate rewrote the measure Tuesday night by a bipartisan tally and dropped the combined Iraq and Afghanistan funding in the House’s lap as one of the last votes before most senators left Washington for the year. “Even those of us who have disagreed on this war have always agreed on one thing: Troops in the field will not be left without the resources they need,” Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said.
Twenty-one Democrats and Connecticut independent Joe Lieberman, who stood with Republicans at a post-vote news conference, voted with every Republican present except Gordon Smith of Oregon to approve the Iraq funding.
The vote represented reluctance in both parties to take money away from troops in the field. At the same time, anti-war Democrats’ positions had been weakened by the decline in violence in Iraq following the increased tempo of U.S.-led military operations there.
War spending aside, Bush’s GOP allies were divided over whether the omnibus appropriations bill represented a win for the party in a monthslong battle with Democrats over domestic agency budgets.
In rapid succession, the Senate cast two votes to approve the hybrid spending bill. By a 70-25 vote, the Senate approved the Iraq and Afghanistan war funds — without restrictions that Democrats had insisted on for weeks. Senators followed with a 76-17 vote to agree to a bundle of 11 annual appropriations bills funding domestic agencies and the foreign aid budget for the 2008 budget year that began Oct. 1.
Published in The Messenger 12.19.07