US House approves war funds measure

By Andrew Taylor
Associated Press / May 15, 2009
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WASHINGTON - Despite Democrats' rising anxiety about Afghanistan, the House yesterday easily passed a $96.7 billion measure fulfilling President Obama's request for war spending and foreign aid efforts there and in Iraq.

Fifty-one Democrats broke with Obama, who is sending 21,000 more troops and military trainers into Afghanistan, but all but a handful of Republicans stood behind the president to produce a 368-60 tally. Republicans supported the measure though majority Democrats added almost $12 billion to Obama's $85 billion request.

The measure would boost total funding provided by Congress for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars above $900 billion.

Across Capitol Hill, a key Senate committee approved a companion $91.3 billion bill that sticks closely to Obama's war request and also includes $50 million for the Pentagon to begin the promised closure of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The issue of closing Guantanamo is addressed in the House measure as well - not with funding but with a promise that detainees from the prison will not be released on US soil. A new provision, however, anticipates some of the 241 detainees at Guantanamo will be transferred to the United States to stand trial or serve their sentences.

The House version adds $11.8 billion, including almost $4 billion for new weapons and military equipment such as cargo planes, mine-resistant vehicles, Bradley Fighting Vehicles, and Stryker armored vehicles. The measure also adds $2.2 billion to Obama's request for foreign aid.

A separate conflict over the war-funding measure concerns whether it should provide a $108 billion US contribution to the International Monetary Fund as part of an expanded $500 billion loan fund, a cornerstone of last month's Group of 20 nations summit in London to assist poor countries struggling through the global economic downturn.