The U.S. House of Representatives has overwhelmingly approved a nearly $97 billion spending measure that funds the continuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and provides counter-insurgency funding for Pakistan. The Senate is expected to vote next week on its version of the legislation:
This is the last time the 111th Congress, dominated by Democrats, will fund military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan in a supplemental measure separate from the regular budget, a much-criticized practice used numerous times by the Republican Bush administration.
Almost $12 billion more than President Obama requested, the measure passed in a 368 to 60 vote amid concern about the chances for success of President Obama's new Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy, and worries about recent violence in Iraq.
House appropriations chairman, Democrat David Obey reiterated his concern about the possibility of achieving real success in Afghanistan. "I have a profound doubt that he can succeed. Not because of any problem with his policy, but because I am dubious that there are the tools available in that region for us to succeed using any policy," he said.
Both the House measures give the Pentagon money for new weapons, aircraft, and armored vehicles and support for troops and their families.
Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq receive several billion dollars in economic and development stabilization funds. Pakistan gets 400 million dollars requested by the Obama administration for a new joint counterinsurgency fund.
Exceeding President Obama's foreign aid request by $2.2 billion, the House measure includes economic, security, food and HIV-AIDS assistance for a range of countries in the Middle East, and Africa, as well as Mexico and the Republic of Georgia.
Lawmakers send a message to the Obama administration regarding plans to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The Senate includes money for closing Guantanamo but directs that it cannot be used to transfer detainees to the U.S. House legislation excludes money President Obama requested to begin closing Guantanamo. But while it would forbid the release of detainees into the U.S., it would permit them to stand trial or serve sentences here.
Republicans such as Representative Jerry Lewis asserted that the Obama administration still lacks a plan for closing Guantanamo without subjecting Americans to increased to security risks. "As presently written the legislation does absolutely nothing to prevent the release of detainees from Guantanamo into the U.S into our neighborhoods and communities after October 1st of this year. These detainees, many of them well-known terrorists trained by al-Qaida would be released with no security risks assessment or even the prior noticiation of members of Congress," he said.
Opposing the bill were members of the Progressive Congressional Caucus, such as California Representative Lynne Woolsey and Ohio's Dennis Kucinich, far-left Democrats who say Congress should not provide more money for any war operations.
"WOOLSEY: Don't tell the American people you are ending the war by continuing to fund the war. Don't tell the American people that the war will end when there are plans to leave 50,000 troops in Iraq. Don't tell the American people that the way out of Afghanistan is to escalate and more counter-insurgency.
KUCINICH: This supplemental [bill] keeps us involved in Iraq and it sets up an un-ending occupation of Afghanistan."
While Democrats and Republicans said the House legislation reflects strong support for U.S. troops, they also put their own spin on things.
House Republican leader John Boehner said the measure ensures troops have the resources they need for victory without including politically-motivated restrictions meant to hamstring commanders in the field.
House Speaker Pelosi said passage of the final war funding supplemental closes a sad chapter in U.S. history involving a tragic miscalculation in Iraq that distracted from the real fight against terrorism for far too long.
Senate action is expected next week on a less expensive $92 billion dollar version, which will have to be reconciled in conference with the House-passed measure.