Congress approves spending proposal

By Andrew Taylor: The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Ending dual spending battles with President Bush, the Democratic-controlled Congress passed a $555 billion bill Wednesday that funds the Iraq war well into next year and government agencies through September.

Bush was expected soon to sign the measure, which includes $70 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, after winning concessions from Democrats on Iraq policy and the budget.

The bill, sent to the president after a 272-142 vote, funds 14 Cabinet departments and foreign aid for the budget year that began Oct. 1.

Bush and his Senate GOP allies forced the Iraq money upon anti-war Democrats as the price for permitting the year-end budget deal to pass and be signed. Seventy-eight House Democrats voted for the Iraq money, eager to avoid being seen as not supporting troops in harm’s way. But 141 Democrats voted against it.

“This is a blank check,” complained Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass. “The new money in this bill represents one cave-in too many. It is an endorsement of George Bush’s policy of endless war.”

Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., said this week that the $70 billion for the wars means Democrats will not see a need to revisit the issue until May or June.

Democrats tried to use war spending legislation to force a change in Bush’s Iraq policy, chiefly by setting a withdrawal goal with dates such as Dec. 15, 2009. But Bush and Republicans held a powerful hand. They knew Democrats would not let money lapse for troops overseas. That allowed a Bush veto in May and GOP stalling tactics to determine the outcome.

On the domestic budget, Bush’s GOP allies were divided over whether the overall spending bill was a victory for their party in the long fight with Democrats over agency budgets.

Conservatives and outside groups such as the Club for Growth, which seeks to elect lawmakers opposed to tax and spending increases, criticized the bill for having about $28 billion in domestic spending that topped Bush’s budget and was paid for by a combination of “emergency” spending, transfers from the defense budget and other maneuvers.

At a glance:

Items in Congress’ omnibus spending bill, which has passed both the Senate and the House of Representatives, to benefit Cannon Air Force Base:

$1.69 Million: To alter Hanger 109 to accommodate a C-130 or other large framed aircraft so that maintenance may be performed in an enclosed area, which will protect personnel and aircraft components from high winds and inclement weather.

$7.5 Million: To construct a single-bay MC-130 Flight Simulator Training Facility. A Special Operations Forces Mission Rehearsal Training Facility of adequate size is required to support the increase of MC-130 aircraft.

$855,000: To construct a facility adequately sized for C-130 fuel cell repair work and a facility adequately sized for corrosion control and composite repairs on assigned aircraft and support equipment. Certain fuel cell maintenance requires a controlled environment protected from the weather, but Cannon Air Force Base lacks a fuel cell maintenance hangar for large frame aircraft.

$711,000: To help construct a Special Operations Forces Mission Rehearsal Training Facility to support the new CV-22 mission rehearsal and crew upgrade training. There is no CV-22 simulator facility at the new AFSOC base, and such a facility is required before the arrival of CV-22 aircraft at the base.

The following item from the omnibus bill benefits Eastern New Mexico University:
$975,000: Technological upgrades, including computer and telecommunications equipment for a foreign language instruction laboratory.