WASHINGTON – Congress on Thursday sent President Barack Obama a massive spending bill aimed at ensuring that the military efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan won’t run out of money in the coming months.
The $106 billion emergency war bill also branches off to provide money for programs ranging from pandemic flu preparedness to a “cash for clunkers” initiative to encourage drivers to switch to more fuel-efficient vehicles.
The Senate passed the measure on a one-sided 91-5 vote despite complaints from several senators about the add-ons that pushed the total more than $20 billion above the funding request Obama made two months ago. The House approved the bill on Wednesday by a much closer 226-202 vote.
The White House and its Democratic allies insisted that this will be the last time Congress will be compelled to pass an emergency war bill, or supplemental, that is outside the normal budget process and thus goes directly to an increase in the national debt.
Congress has passed such bills every year since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and with enactment of this legislation the amount will near $1 trillion, with about 70 percent going to the conflict in Iraq.
Obama has said that in the future all war operation expenses will be incorporated in the Defense Department budget.
The bill includes about $80 billion to finance the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through this fiscal year that ends Sept. 30.