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US House of Representatives Approves War Funding Bill

A bill to pay for U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and help bolster Pakistan's ability to fight extremists, has been approved Tuesday by the U.S. House of Representatives in a 226 to 202 vote.   All but five Republicans opposed the $106 billion measure, and 32 Democrats voted against their party.

A product of House-Senate negotiations that resolved differences between bills each chamber's already-passed bills, the measure primarily supports military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also includes money for security forces in Pakistan and Afghanistan. 

Lawmakers also fund other foreign priorities, and a range of domestic needs, all of which drove the cost considerably above President Obama's original $91 billion request and sparked Republican complaints.

Just under $80 billion meets Pentagon needs in Iraq and Afghanistan, including preparations for the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq.  President Obama set August 31, 2010 as the date all combat troops will depart, except for as many as 50,000 to advise and train the Iraqi army. 

The legislation provides $3.6 billion for counter-terrorism Coalition Support Funds to expand and improve capabilities of Afghanistan's security forces, and another $1.4 billion for economic and development aid.

Of the $2.4 billion addressing needs in Pakistan,  $707 million is to address a range of economic needs, including aid to refugees, along with support for governance and rule of law programs and education.

Plans for a new Counterinsurgency Capabilities Fund to help Pakistan's military and special forces fight extremists receive a total of $700 million.

The main target of Republican complaints was President Obama's request for $5 billion to help expand lending by the International Monetary Fund for countries grappling with the global financial crisis.

Republicans asserted that IMF lending should not be in a war bill, and also that IMF money could end up helping countries hostile to the United States.  Here is Republican minority leader John Boehner:

"We may have enough money in the U.S. to solve our economic problems, but I'll guarantee you we don't have enough money to solve the world's economic problems," said John Boehner.

Democrats including House majority leader Steny Hoyer asserted that Republicans would vote to support the IMF if the request had come from a Republican president, and urged lawmakers to vote for the bill.

"Do not delude yourself that this is not a vote to support the troops," said Steny Hoyer. "Eighty percent plus of this bill is about American servicemen and women in harm's way."

Democrat David Obey heads the House Appropriations Committee:

"What we are trying to do is to provide the president with all the tools he needs internationally to defend our economic stability and to stabilize the economy of our trading partners, because our economy does not function and we do not create sufficient jobs in this economy unless we help create economic conditions in other countries so they can buy our goods," said Obey.

All but five Republicans voted against the measure, over the IMF issue and removal of a Senate provision that would have banned the public release of photographs showing U.S. interrogators abusing terrorist detainees.

Outspoken anti-war Democrats were among 32 voting against their party among them Ohio Representative Dennis Kucinich:

"We have got another $80 billion here for war, but we don't have money to keep people in their homes, because there are still 13 million Americans who are losing their homes, we don't have money for the 50 million Americans who don't have any health care, we don't have money to save jobs, we don't have money to save our steel mills and our auto plants," said Kucinich. "What we have is we have money for war."

The legislation also includes hundreds of millions of dollars in economic, humanitarian and security aid for Egypt, Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, the West Bank and Gaza, Kenya, Somalia, southern Sudan, Zimbabwe, the Republic of Georgia, and Mexico.  It also contains food assistance, and funding for the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
 
House approval sends the bill to the Senate which is expected to act on it later this week before the measure goes to President Obama for signature.  

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