WASHINGTON – The Senate is ready to give President Bush (search) $50 billion more for wars, even as public support for the Iraq fighting slips, the number of U.S. casualties climbs and Congress grows frustrated by the conflict's direction.
The money, part of a $445 billion military spending bill for the budget year that began Oct. 1, would pay for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. It would push the war total beyond $350 billion since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
The Republican-led Senate headed Thursday toward a vote on the bill, which provides $5 billion more for wars than the version approved by the House.
The final bill is expected to include $50 billion after House-Senate negotiators meet to settle differences before sending it to the president.
The Bush administration has not asked for more war money. But lawmakers say they cannot wait for a formal request and military officers have told them they will need the money by mid-November to continue operations.
Many lawmakers anticipate the administration will have to ask for billions of dollars more next year.
The Senate measure would impose restrictions on the treatment of terrorism suspects. The White House has threatened to veto the entire bill, saying this provision would restrict U.S. options for dealing with suspected terrorists.
Both the Senate and House versions provide for a 3.1 percent pay raise for the military and increased benefits for troops.
Bucking the White House, the Senate voted to ban cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment against anyone in U.S. government custody. The amendment sponsored by Sen. John McCain (search), R-Ariz., would standardize how service members detain and interrogate terrorism suspects. McCain was a prisoner of war in Vietnam.
The House bill did not include such language.
Administration officials say the proposal would limit the president's authority and flexibility, and hurt efforts in the global fight against terrorism.
On Thursday, White House spokesman Scott McClellan (search) said some of the wording about detainees was unnecessary and duplicative, and that the administration hoped to press the concerns with congressional negotiators.
Support for the provision in the GOP-controlled House is unclear.
The Senate action shows that members of the president's own party are concerned about his wartime policies. Their worries reflect those of their skeptical constituents. Public opinion polls show declining American support for the war that has so far claimed the lives of more than 1,940 U.S. military members.
The Congressional Research Service, which writes reports for lawmakers, says the Pentagon is spending about $6 billion a month for Iraq and $1 billion for Afghanistan, and war costs could total $570 billion by the end of 2010, assuming troops are gradually brought home.
CRS analysts say that since the Sept. 11 attacks, Congress has given the president about $311 billion for combat and reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan and securing U.S. bases. About $280 billion has gone to the Pentagon, while $31 billion has been provided for foreign and diplomatic operations.
Excluding the $50 billion in new money, the Senate bill totals $395 billion -- about $2 billion less than what the president had requested for the Defense Department.
The House bill totals $364 billion, but it is not directly comparable to the Senate version.
The Senate bill provides $5 billion in emergency money that was not in the House version. About $4 billion of that would go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to stockpile medicine to protect people against bird flu and prepare for a potential outbreak.
About $1 billion to replenish National Guard and Reserve equipment.