The U.S. Senate has approved nearly $80 billion dollars in emergency funding to pay for the initial costs of the U.S.-led war to disarm Iraq and bolster homeland security. The House has also passed its version of the spending request.
Most of the package, $62 billion, is to help pay for the war in Iraq. The rest is for boosting homeland security and for aid to regional allies, including $1 billion for Turkey.
Under pressure from the Bush administration, [Senators] rejected efforts to penalize allies who opposed the war.
In the House, Republican Congressman Randy Cunningham of California, sought to strip the funding measure of the aid to Turkey. He argued that that country should be punished for refusing to allow U.S. troops to use its territory to invade Iraq. "If my own daughters intentionally did something egregious, I am surely, Mr. Chairman, not going to raise their allowance. I love them, I want their love in the future, and the same goes for Turkey," he said.
But National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice urged lawmakers in a letter to support the aid, saying it could bolster the U.S.-Turkish strategic partnership.
In a related matter, Republican Senator John Ensign of Nevada withdrew an amendment under administration pressure that would have barred funding for Iraq's reconstruction from going to French and German companies. Those countries vehemently opposed the war. "When the conflict is over, and we are going to rebuild Iraq, American taxpayer dollars are not to French or German companies, to French or German citizens, because of what their governments did in opposing the United States," he said.
The amendment prompted spirited debate from opponents, including Senator Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat. "I believe we would drive deeper the scar tissue into the psyche of America with this amendment," she said. "I believe we will rent apart our alliances with this kind of amendment."
The funding package also includes about $3 billion in aid to airlines that have suffered financially because of the war. The White House calls the amount 'excessive'.
Lawmakers also voted to curb President Bush's request for maximum flexibility on how the funds are used. Senator Robert Byrd, a Democrat from West Virginia, underscored the Congress' power to control the nation's purse strings. "The Constitution grants to the Congress the authority to appropriate funds and the solemn responsibility to exercise that authority wisely. For us to agree to the many, many, many sweeping grants of so-called 'flexible authority' sought by this administration would be to abdicate that heavy Constitutional responsibility," he said.
Congressional negotiators will have to reconcile differences in the House and Senate bills before a final version is sent to President Bush for his signature.