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Last Updated: Saturday, 12 April, 2003, 20:04 GMT 21:04 UK
Congress backs war budget

By Steve Schifferes
BBC News Online in Washington

House Speaker Dennis Hastert (left) with President George W Bush
Speaker Hastert (left) made the budget a test of patriotism

The US Congress has approved the war spending bill, after squabbling over extra projects and adding $3bn to aid the airline industry.

The bill was passed in record speed, but was almost held up by last minute delays, leading the House of Representatives to hold an unusual Saturday vote, as congressmen started to head home for the two-week Easter recess.

It is likely to be only the first instalment of the total cost of the war, as it only covers spending until October, and only allows for less than $2.3bn in rebuilding costs and humanitarian aid.

President Bush said that the bill offered "the resources necessary to win the war and help secure enduring freedom and democracy for the Iraqi people".

War enthusiasm

With US troops in the field, there was little opposition in principle to funding the conflict.

"In the end, we had a job to do to help our troops, and we did that job well," said House Speaker Dennis Hastert

Paying for the Iraq war
Military operations: $44bn
Call up of reserves: $10bn
Munitions: $6.5bn
Reconstruction: $1.7bn
Humanitarian aid: $500m
FBI: $500m
Coast Guard: $1.5bn
Afghanistan aid: $400m
Aid to Turkey, Jordan, Egypt: $1bn each
Aid to airline industry: $3bn
source: OMB, Congress

As well as military operations, the bill also authorises money to provide extra security for agencies fighting domestic terrorism, aid to US allies affected by the conflict, and help to the US airline industry.

But House leaders balked at the attempt by Senators to also include unrelated pet projects, such as help for the Alaska salmon-fishing industry, a dam in Vermont, and an agricultural research institute in Iowa.

"In this town we have people who will take advantage of even a war situation and a war supplemental," said House Republican leader Tom DeLay.

Less discretion for White House

The compromise measure rejected attempts by House Republicans to prevent companies in France, Germany or Russia from receiving US government contracts to rebuild Iraq.

The Bush administration also beat back an attempt to eliminate the $1bn in aid to Turkey because it refused to let US troops attack through its Northern border with Iraq.

However Congress switched the money for rebuilding Iraq from the Pentagon budget back to the State Department.

The department's USAID agency normally administers foreign aid - although the president will retain some discretion.

Members of the Senate foreign relations committee had worried that the State Department was being squeezed out of the reconstruction role.

And Congress rejected Mr Bush's request for most of the money to be spent wholly at his discretion, earmarking just $16bn to be spent without congressional oversight.

"This bill began with the administration asking for a series of blank checks totalling almost $70 billion," said Democratic congressman David Obey.

Now, "we have reintroduced the concept of checks and balances."

The tensions between the White House and the Congress over who will control the spending may return to haunt the Bush administration, which has faced accusations of arrogance towards the legislative branch and an off-hand approach.

And the tensions within Congress, which have also surfaced in a row over the size of the tax cut, have also been exacerbated by the bad-tempered negotiations over this bill between the House and Senate.




SEE ALSO:
Bush sends $75bn bill for war
25 Mar 03  |  Business


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