War funding bill passes Senate with bipartisan supportBy AP
Friday, May 28, 2010
War funding bill passes Senate
WASHINGTON — The Senate has passed a bill to fund President Barack Obama’s troop surge in Afghanistan.
The almost $60 billion measure passed by a bipartisan 67-28 tally. More than half of the funding would go to the Pentagon, mostly to support Obama’s influx of 30,000 troops to Afghanistan.
There’s also $5 billion to replenish disaster aid accounts, as well as funding for Haitian earthquake relief and aid to U.S. allies in the war on terror.
The bill includes legislation to allow the Coast Guard to receive advances of up to $100 million from the oil spill liability trust fund to pay for the federal response to spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
The House has yet to approve the war funding measure, which faces opposition from many anti-war lawmakers.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate moved forward Thursday with an almost $60 billion war funding bill, but anxiety over out-of-control budget deficits led House leaders to propose dropping more than $30 billion in spending from a catchall bill anchored by an extension of jobless benefits.
Confronted with a rebellion by Democratic moderates, House leaders proposed to dump overboard $24 billion in aid to states and allow generous health insurance subsidies for laid-off workers to expire. The changes were an effort to round up votes to extend unemployment benefits and renew more than 50 popular tax breaks that expired last year.
Help for doctors facing a big cut in Medicare reimbursements could also be dropped from the measure, aides and lobbyists said.
The steps by House leaders could reduce the deficit impact of the bill to as little as $30 billion or so in hopes of winning over moderate “Blue Dog” Democrats unhappy about adding to the deficit as the national debt is on the verge of topping $13 trillion. A version circulated last week would have added $134 billion to the deficit.
“They need to go back to the drawing board,” said Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, a member of the conservative Blue Dog coalition. After the slimmed-down bill was revealed, Cuellar said he would probably vote for the bill.
Across the Capitol, Senate Democrats had far better success in advancing the war funding bill, which would pay for President Barack Obama’s 30,000 troop increase in Afghanistan.
A dozen Republicans, including GOP leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, joined Democrats in a 69-29 test vote to limit debate. It set the stage for a final vote as early as Thursday night.
The bill includes $5 billion to replenish disaster aid accounts, and there’s money for Haitian earthquake relief and aid to U.S. allies in the fight against terror.
The war funding measure has been kept relatively clean of add-ons that could draw GOP opposition — to the frustration of liberal Democrats such as Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa, the top Senate sponsor of a $23 billion plan to help school districts avoid teacher layoffs as local revenues remain weak. Facing sure defeat, Harkin declined to offer the plan to the war funding bill.
Thousands of people are set to begin losing jobless benefits when an extension of unemployment insurance expires next week. A 65 percent subsidy for health insurance benefits for the unemployed under the COBRA program also expires.
The benefits extensions are part of a sweeping package of unfinished business that lawmakers hope to complete before their Memorial Day recess.
Democratic leaders cut the package of spending and tax cuts Wednesday by about $50 billion — to $143 billion — in an attempt to pick up votes. Thursday’s moves could whack more than $50 billion more from the measure.
It’s a tough vote for lawmakers who want to help constituents hit hard by the recession but are wary of being labeled big spenders. The economy is starting to pick up, but unemployment is still high as the nation continues to struggle from the loss of more than 8 million jobs. At the same time, angst over deficit spending is growing as midterm congressional elections near in November.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said that the Senate would not vote on the House tax and spending measure and announced the Senate would shortly adjourn for the Memorial Day recess.
The expanded jobless benefits provide up to 99 weeks of payments in many states, at a cost of nearly $40 billion. The benefits are part of a bill that includes a one-year extension of about 50 popular tax breaks that expired at the end of last year and a delay in scheduled cuts in Medicare payments to doctors.
The cost of the bill would be partially offset by tax increases on investment fund managers, oil companies and some international businesses. The tax increases total about $57 billion over the next decade. Changes giving underfunded pensions more time to improve their finances would raise $2 billion.
The original package unveiled last week would have extended unemployment benefits through December and delayed a 21 percent cut in Medicare payments until 2014. The pared-down bill would delay the Medicare cuts until 2012, when lawmakers would have to address the issue again.
Also in the House, Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey, D-Wis., called off a vote on a far larger version of the war funding bill that added the $23 billion to help school districts avoid teacher layoffs, along with $6 billion to make up for a funding shortfall in grants for low-income college students. An Obey spokesman blamed the busy floor schedule and ongoing uncertainty over the jobless benefits bill. Appropriations panel Republicans had vowed to offer a raft of politically painful amendments.
Tags: Afghanistan, Appropriations, Asia, Barack Obama, Central Asia, Government Programs, Government-funded Health Insurance, Labor Economy, North America, United States, Washington