- Entry Word: complicity
Article published Dec 20, 2007
House OKs spending bill
December 20, 2007
By S.A. Miller - The Democrat-led House yesterday gave final approval to a $555 billion bill to fund the federal government, ending a long budget battle by buckling to President Bush's demand for war funds and to his spending limit.
The bill, which funds every Cabinet agency except the Pentagon and provides $70 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, passed 272-142 and finished Congress' work for the year.
S.A. Miller: Party base slams top Democrats for yielding
Republican support carried the legislation, accounting for 194 "yes" votes along with 78 cast by Democrats. Rep. John J. "Jimmy" Duncan Jr. of Tennessee cast the lone Republican vote against the measure, joining 141 Democrats.
Despite House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's vow of "no blank check" for the Iraq war, she allowed the vote amid intense pressure to finish the overdue spending package and wrap up the session before Christmas.
"It's disappointing, but it is the will of the Congress," Mrs. Pelosi told reporters on Capitol Hill.
Democrats couldn't budge Mr. Bush from his promise to veto any spending bill that broke his budget limit or didn't come with $70 billion in emergency war funds, a down payment on the $196.4 billion war request for 2008.
Rep. Barbara Lee took to the House floor to accuse Mr. Bush of holding domestic programs hostage for war money, and fellow California Democrat Rep. Maxine Waters urged her colleagues to defeat the bill.
"We are never going to end this war until we stop feeding this war with taxpayer money," said Mrs. Waters, who with Mrs. Lee co-founded the Out of Iraq Caucus.
House Minority Whip Roy Blunt, Missouri Republican, applauded the approval of the war funds but lamented the months it took to secure spending for troops in combat.
"Perhaps more troubling than the delay, though, is the fact that so few Democrats in the House thought it worthy of their support," he said. "For this new majority, the story of this session has been a tale of false-starts, missteps and unimaginable overreaches. But at least on this issue — the most critical one outstanding — Democrats decided to do what was right and allow our members to cast the right vote, finally, on behalf of our men and women in the field."
The roughly $555 billion bill included the war funds and $11.2 billion in other emergency funds that don't count toward the budget limit. Coupled with the $459 billion Defense Department bill signed into law last month, the new bill met Mr. Bush's $933 billion cap for total discretionary spending.
The other emergency funds cover veterans' health care, border security, drought relief and other domestic programs.
Democrats first proposed spending about $23 billion more than the president requested. They later offered to split the difference and spend $11 billion over the limit, then cut the offer to about $4 billion before surrendering to Mr. Bush.
Appropriators met Mr. Bush's budget limit, in part, by slashing his defense and foreign-aid priorities to pay for restoring and even boosting domestic-spending programs that the White House wanted to trim.
The Democrats' emphasis on domestic priorities included adding $1 billion to expand health care access, $607 million for medical research, $767 million for education programs such as Head Start, $486 million for renewable energy and $1.8 billion in Homeland Security grants.
They cut administration priorities, including increased funding for abstinence education, expansion of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and some weapons-program requests.
Republican support for the bill came despite early criticism that the majority rushed to pass a 3,500-page bill that conceals more than 9,000 pork projects and some abrupt policy shifts, including a provision that undermines current plans for a U.S.-Mexico border fence.
The 2006 Secure Fence Act specifically called for "two layers of reinforced fencing" and listed five specific sections of border where it should be installed. The spending bill nixed the two-tier requirement and the list of locations.
The White House pledged anyway to pursue the original plan to build about 670 miles of border fence in 2008, despite Democrats' attempt to obstruct the project.
BIPARTISAN APPETITE FOR EARMARKS
For all the public tuttutting about congressional earmarks, the targeted spending items seem almost as popular as ever, with about 9,000 included in the massive appropriations bill Congress is sending to President Bush.
They will steer $7.4 billion in taxpayer funds to birds and bees, locks and dams, parks and ponds, and scores of other projects throughout the nation, including:
• $825,000 to expand the neonatal intensive-care unit at St. Louis Children's Hospital (Sen. Christopher S. Bond, Missouri Republican)
• $464,000 for hops research (Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, Washington Democrats, and Oregon's Gordon H. Smith, a Republican, and Ron Wyden, a Democrat)
• $100,000 for the historic Mount Hope Cemetery in Rochester, N.Y. (Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, a Democrat)
• $705,000 for brown tree-snake management in Guam (Sens. Daniel K. Akaka and Daniel K. Inouye, Hawaii Democrats)
• $2.2 million for Mormon cricket control, evenly divided between Nevada (Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat) and Utah (Sen. Robert F. Bennett, a Republican)
• $223,000 for beaver management in North Carolina (Sen. Elizabeth Dole, a Republican, and Rep. David E. Price, a Democrat), and $475,000 for beaver management in Mississippi (Sen. Thad Cochran and Rep. Roger Wicker, both Republicans)
• $353,000 to combat Asian long-horned beetles (Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat)
• $779,000 for wolf-predation management in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan (Reps. James L. Oberstar, Minnesota Democrat, and David R. Obey, Wisconsin Democrat)
• $332,000 for oyster post-harvest treatment (Rep. Allen Boyd, Florida Democrat)
• $244,000 for bee research in Texas (Rep. Chet Edwards, a Democrat)
• $513,000 for blackbird management in four states, sponsored by numerous lawmakers.