WASHINGTON – The House easily approved another $82 billion for Iraq (search)and Afghanistan (search)on Thursday, a measure that includes sweeping immigration reforms and boosts the total spent on fighting terrorism since 2001 to beyond $300 billion.
The vote was 368-58, with one lawmaker abstaining. The Senate is to vote on the measure next week when it returns from a weeklong recess, and approval is expected.
The bulk of the money — $75.9 billion —er security agents.
Both the Republican-controlled House and Senate had promised to "scrub" President Bush's request to cut spending for items that did not represent emergency spending needs. But the bill carries the same overall price tag that Bush proposed in February, and he gets most of what he sought.
However, the bill also provides roughly $1 billion more than the president had requested for defense and about $1.5 billion less than he wanted for international relations programs, reflecting a desire by lawmakers to give the Pentagon what it needs while holding the line on State Department (search) spending.
"We did our very best to keep the package clean, and by and large we were successful at that," said Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Calif., chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., said the bill provides important money for troops overseas. "We owe them our full support in the battles they wage in the cause of liberty," he said.
Democrats roundly criticized the Republican leadership for including the immigration reforms in a bill meant to cover the cost of war. They also assailed the administration's Iraq policies and railed against what they called a lack of oversight by Congress of money already given to the Republican administration for the two wars and reconstruction.
"The president's rationale for the invasion was discredited long ago. Iraq is still not safe," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said. "Providing this money alone is not enough. A way out must be provided as well."
Rep. David Obey of Wisconsin, the top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, said the bill fails to include checks and balances of U.S. funds flowing into Iraq, despite reports of financial mismanagement of money that Congress already has approved. "We have virtually been begging on bended knee to get this Congress to establish a committee to investigate this problem," he said.
Hitting on immigration reforms in the bill, Rep. Louise McIntosh Slaughter, D-N.Y., claimed that House GOP leaders "shoved this extreme measure down our throats."
"Our brave men and women are being used as a tool" for the "underhanded attempt to create a national ID card," she said.
The legislation is the fifth such emergency spending package Congress has taken up since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. It pushes the costs of the two conflicts and other efforts to fight terrorism worldwide over four years beyond $300 billion.
The bill includes a nearly tenfold increase in the one-time benefit for survivors of troops killed in combat zones — from $12,000 to $100,000. The increase would apply retroactively to families of troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan beginning on Oct. 7, 2001.
On the foreign affairs side, the measure provides $592 billion for a sprawling embassy in Baghdad, $230 million for U.S. allies in the war on terror, and $200 million in economic and infrastructure assistance to the Palestinian Authority.