WASHINGTON – The Senate on Thursday night passed a $60 billion bill to fund President Barack Obama’s troop surge in Afghanistan after rejecting more than $20 billion in domestic spending the House had tacked on.
In a take-it-or-leave-it gesture, the Senate returned to the House a measure limited chiefly to war funding, foreign aid, medical care for Vietnam War veterans exposed to Agent Orange, and replenishing almost empty disaster aid accounts.
The moves repel a long-shot bid by House Democrats earlier this month to resurrect their faltering jobs agenda with $10 billion in grants to school districts to avoid teacher layoffs, $5 billion for Pell Grants to low-income college students, $1 billion for a summer jobs program, and $700 million to improve security along the U.S.-Mexico border.
The House bill fell prey to a 46-51 tally that fell short of a simple majority, much less the 60 votes required to defeat a filibuster. The Senate is instead insisting on its almost $60 billion version of the measure, passed on a bipartisan vote in May.
The Senate measure is likely to be grudgingly accepted by House Democrats next week. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has been agitating for the money and warned lawmakers this week that unless the measure is enacted into law before Congress leaves for its August recess, the Pentagon could have to furlough thousands of employees.