House Passes $82-Billion Request for War Funding

Times Staff Writer

President Bush’s request for nearly $82 billion in emergency funds primarily for military spending in Iraq and Afghanistan and assistance to global hot spots easily passed the House on Wednesday, winning virtually unanimous support from Republicans and broad backing from Democrats.

The request, if approved by the Senate, would increase the cost of fighting wars and terrorism since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to about $300 billion.

During a day and a half of floor debate, Democrats criticized the administration’s policies in Iraq and its repeated use of emergency funding requests to cover the costs of fighting there and in Afghanistan. The Democrats also cited what they called lax congressional oversight of reconstruction efforts in both nations.

Most, however, voted for the bill, saying they felt an obligation to support American troops. The measure passed 388 to 43; eight California Democrats were among those who voted no.


Republicans spearheaded the only significant changes in the White House request.

They blocked the administration’s appeal for $592 million to build a new embassy in Iraq, despite a plea for the money from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. They also attached stringent conditions to an administration request for $200 million in Palestinian aid, barring Bush from being able to give any of the money directly to the Palestinian Authority. The money would instead go to nongovernmental organizations and U.S. contractors for projects and services.

Republicans also added controversial immigration-related provisions to the bill. One of the measures would set federal standards for driver’s licenses, aimed at prodding states to deny them to illegal immigrants. Other provisions would tighten the procedures for winning asylum in the United States and complete a 3 1/2 -mile section of the fence on the U.S.-Mexico border near San Diego.

The House acted three days before the two-year anniversary of the launch of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and on a day that an ABC News-Washington Post poll found that a majority of Americans -- 53% -- said the war was not worth fighting.

In a statement shortly after the vote, Bush applauded the House for “its 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.”

The Senate is expected to take up the emergency funding request early next month, after Congress returns from its two-week spring break.

A version of the bill is expected to easily pass in the chamber. But the negotiations between the House and Senate are likely to be complicated by the House’s decision to attach the immigration-related provisions.

Included in the emergency funding is $76.8 billion for military expenses, much of it for the Army and Marine Corps. That is about $1.8 billion more than what Bush requested -- a reflection of lawmakers’ eagerness to ensure that troops have the weapons and equipment they need.

The funding bill would provide $656 million for Indian Ocean countries struggling to recover from the Dec. 26 tsunami. Another $222 million would go to reimburse the U.S. military for money it spent on initial relief efforts in the disaster.

The bill would also earmark $590 million for training police in Afghanistan and fighting the narcotics trade there. About $580 million would go to international peacekeeping missions.

In a statement issued before Wednesday’s vote, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) laid out the Democrats’ approach of supporting the troops while faulting the policy that put them in Iraq.

“I understand and share the frustration that will lead some to vote against this bill,” she said.

“We are being asked, again, to clean up a mess that many of us argued strongly against creating. Putting aside our frustration with this administration so that we can provide our troops what they need does not, however, mean that we will forget the mistakes, miscalculations and misrepresentations that brought us to the point where these billions are necessary.”

Pelosi voted for the bill.

Before the Jan. 30 elections in Iraq, many analysts expected Democrats to turn the debate over the emergency funding into a showcase to bash the administration for the war. But the elections -- and the stirrings of democratic reform efforts elsewhere in the Middle East -- have made it harder for the party to criticize the administration’s policies in the region, analysts said Wednesday.

“The worst thing Democrats could do now is throw cold water,” on those reform efforts, said Thomas Mann, a specialist in congressional affairs at the Brookings Institution.

Voting against the bill were 39 Democrats, three Republicans and one independent.

All 20 Republicans in California’s 53-member House delegation voted for the bill. The Democrats who voted against it were Sam Farr of Carmel, Bob Filner of San Diego, Barbara Lee of Oakland, George Miller of Martinez, Pete Stark of Hayward, Mike Thompson of St. Helena, Maxine Waters of Los Angeles and Lynn Woolsey of Petaluma.