House passes new Iraq funding bill
May 13, 2007 - 9:00 pm
WASHINGTON — The House voted last week for a new plan to fund the Iraq war by approving a portion of what President Bush had requested for U.S. troops while withholding other funds until later in the summer.
Democrats defied a veto threat from Bush in pushing the legislation, which requires Congress to be given three reports in July on progress in Iraq before lawmakers decide whether to release the remainder of the funds.
The bill, which passed 221-205, would make $43 billion available now, while holding on to $53 billion until later.
Supporters said the bill was in tune with the beliefs of a majority of Americans, who say they want the United States to wind down its involvement in Iraq.
They said the measure would force accountability on the Bush administration and on the Iraqis, who are being pressured to organize their government, take over the fight against insurgents and quell battling between Sunni and Shiite factions.
Opponents scoffed that the war cannot be fought and won on an “installment plan.”
They said the bill would withhold money for U.S. troops that is needed now while setting an arbitrary July timetable to debate the next steps.
Some argued Congress should wait at least until Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Iraq, reports back in September on how the war is going.
Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., voted for the bill. Reps. Dean Heller and Jon Porter, both R-Nev., voted against it.
It was not clear immediately whether the Senate would vote on the House bill.
Bush earlier this month vetoed an initial war spending bill that included a timetable for withdrawing American soldiers from Iraq.
FAST-TRACK WITHDRAWAL DEBATE
As a measure of sentiment for pulling out of Iraq, the House debated a measure that called for U.S. troop withdrawals within 90 days, with the withdrawal to be completed within 180 days.
The toughest Iraq withdrawal bill brought to a vote to date, it was defeated 255-171. While it was not expected to pass, some lawmakers expressed surprise that it received as many votes as it did.
Berkley, Heller and Porter voted against the measure.
INTELLIGENCE BILL APPROVED
The House voted 225-197 to authorize continued funding for intelligence programs.
The sum is classified but estimated to be around $45 billion.
Berkley and Porter voted for the bill. Heller voted against it.
Debate was marked by battles on several topics.
Voting 230-185, lawmakers kept in the bill a required study of climate change and its potential impact on national security.
Democrats said experts have endorsed the need for such a study, while Republicans charged it would be a waste of time and money.
Berkley voted for the study. Porter and Heller voted against it.
Lawmakers also debated earmarked spending in the “black,” or secret, part of the intelligence budget.
Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., argued the bill did not properly identify sponsors of pork barrel “earmarks” in the secret part of the bill, as required by House rules set earlier this year.
Democrats said the disclosures were delayed by errors in printing the bill.
Flake called for the House to go into closed session to discuss the secret spending, but his request was denied, 217-207.
Porter and Heller voted for a closed session to discuss earmarks. Berkley voted against going into closed session.
HOMELAND SECURITY BILL PASSED
The House reauthorized Department of Homeland Security programs in a $39.9 billion bill. It passed 296-126.
Among a host of features, the bill authorizes $300 million in grants to help states issue new driver’s licenses and identification cards that Congress ordered two years ago.
It also requires periodic comprehensive reviews of homeland security needs, much like the Pentagon conducts for U.S. military requirements.
Republicans complained that Democratic sponsors had omitted key provisions that would allow first responders flexibility in spending emergency communications grants.
They also said it did not streamline homeland security committees in Congress, as recommended by the Sept. 11 commission.
Democrats said they continue to work through jurisdiction issues on streamlining the committee process and that their bill was an improvement over last year, when a homeland security measure failed to be brought to the floor.
Porter, Heller and Berkley voted for the bill.