WASHINGTON — Congress last week passed and sent to President Barack Obama a bill containing $80 billion to continue paying for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The funding for military operations through Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year, was the biggest item in a $105.9 billion emergency spending bill. It also contained $7.7 billion to prepare for flu pandemics and $5 billion for foreign lending through the International Monetary Fund.
The bill also contains $1 billion for a “cash for clunkers” program that would pay motorists who trade in their gas guzzlers for new fuel efficient vehicles.
Obama lobbied Democrats reluctant to keep funding the war in Iraq. Starting next year, the bill requires the president to report to Congress every six months on progress to reduce U.S. operations.
Obama also needed to cut a deal with Democrats from Texas who complained about how economic stimulus money was being spent in their state.
Republicans were unhappy about the additional money for the International Monetary Fund. House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, called it a “global bailout.”
The House passed the bill 226-202. Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., voted for it. Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nev., voted against it. Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., did not vote.
The bill passed the Senate 91-5. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., voted for it. Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., did not vote.
Before Senate passage, bill sponsors defeated an attempt to strip out the auto trade-in program.
Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., said for the price it would only make a mild improvement in auto mileage, and that the $1 billion cost was not offset by cuts in other parts of the bill.
Supporters said “cash for clunkers” would boost new car sales and stimulate the economy.
Senate leaders needed 60 votes to defeat Gregg’s proposal to drop the “cash for clunkers” program and obtained just that many, 60-36. Reid voted for the auto trade-in program. Ensign did not vote.
Contact Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at stetreault@stephensmedia .com or 202-783-1760.