WASHINGTON (AP) - The Senate on Thursday passed a $91.3 billion
military spending bill, shorn of money President Barack Obama wants
to close the Guantanamo Bay prison but allowing him to
significantly ramp up the U.S. war in Afghanistan.
The Senate voted 86-3 to pass the bill, which provides money for
military and diplomatic operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, setting
up House-Senate talks on a compromise measure to present to Obama
The spending measure closely tracks Obama's request for war
funds, although the $80 million he was seeking to close the U.S.
naval prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was dropped Wednesday.
A three-day Senate debate on the bill featured little of the
angst over the situation in Afghanistan that permeated debate in
the House last week on companion legislation.
Obama is sending more than 20,000 additional troops there and,
for the first time next year, the annual cost of the war in
Afghanistan is projected to exceed the cost of fighting in Iraq.
With support forces, the number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan is
expected to be about 68,000 by the end of the year - more than
double the size of the U.S. force at the end of 2008.
Among the few cautionary voices was Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.
"I want to give this administration ... the resources it needs
to successfully end these wars," Boxer said. "I don't support an
open-ended commitment of American troops to Afghanistan. And if we
do not see measurable progress, we must reconsider our engagement
and strategy there."
Debate pretty much fizzled after Democrats retreated and moved
to delete from the bill money to close Guantanamo, where about 240
terrorism suspects still are held. The companion House bill had
already taken that step.
The underlying war funding measure has gotten relatively little
attention, even though it would boost total approved spending for
the Iraq and Afghanistan wars above $900 billion.
The Pentagon would receive $73 billion under the legislation,
including $4.6 billion to train and equip Afghan and Iraqi security
forces; $400 million to train and equip Pakistan's security forces,
and $21.9 billion to procure new mine-resistant vehicles, aircraft,
weapons and ammunition, among other items.
The House version adds $11.8 billion to Obama's request,
including almost $4 billion for new weapons and military equipment
such as eight C-17 cargo planes, mine-resistant vehicles, Bradley
Fighting Vehicles and Stryker armored vehicles. The House measure
also adds $2.2 billion to Obama's request for foreign aid, much of
which appears to be designed to get around spending limits for
The Senate measure contains less for weapons procurement and
foreign aid, setting up potentially nettlesome negotiations.
The Senate the floor was often empty Thursday as senators
wrestled privately over what final add-ons would make it into the
In the end, several amendments were added, including one by
Sens. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., to
block the release under the Freedom of Information Act of
government photographs showing the abuse of detainees. The
administration is fighting the American Civil Liberties Union in
federal court over the release of the photos, and the move was
intended to bolster the government's legal position.
Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., won approval Thursday of an amendment
requiring the president to set forth U.S. objectives in Afghanistan
and Pakistan and issue quarterly reports detailing whether those
goals were being met.
The Senate bill includes $1.5 billion as cautionary funding to
fight a possible flu pandemic, including the current outbreak of
H1N1 swine flu.
The bill also contains $350 million for various security
programs along the U.S.-Mexico border. But the money would not be
awarded to the Pentagon, as Obama requested.
By a 64-30 vote earlier Thursday, the Senate rejected an
amendment by Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., to kill a proposed $100
billion line of credit for the IMF to shore up the ability of
countries around the globe cope with financial crises, along with
$8 billion for existing commitments.
DeMint earned a bipartisan rebuke from the Senate Foreign
Relations Committee chairman, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., along with
Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., who said the IMF funding was critical to
avoiding financial instability in the world that could harm the
"The fact is that if those emerging markets start to fade, not
only do we lose the economic upside of those markets but we also
run the risk that governments fail," Kerry said.
Both Kerry and Gregg said the true cost to taxpayers would be
small, since the U.S. government is given interest-bearing assets
in return and has never lost money on investments in the IMF. They
said even the $5 billion cost estimate by the Congressional Budget
Office was too high.
House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey, D-Wis., said
again Thursday that he's "very, very reluctant" to support any
additional IMF since European countries have been slow to take
deficit-financed steps to stimulate their economies.
Sens. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., Russ Feingold, D-Wis., and Bernie
Sanders, I-Vt., voted against the measure war spending bill.
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