WASHINGTON – The House on Tuesday authorized spending $1.6 billion over the next three years to help Mexico and other countries counter growing drug violence and the cartels behind it. But the money isn't assured.
The bill, approved 311-106, would not provide any money to Mexico. That could come separately in pending bills funding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and future appropriations bills.
The House and Senate are negotiating with the administration on the war spending bills to avoid a threatened veto by President Bush.
In addition, the Mexican government is opposing the anti-drug trafficking aid in the war bills because of requirements in it that Mexico says interfere with its sovereignty. A delegation of congressional members met with Mexico officials over the weekend to discuss Mexico's concerns.
In the bill passed Tuesday, the House authorized about $1.1 billion for Mexico between 2008-2010; $405 million for Central America and Caribbean countries and $74 million for the Justice Department to stem the flow of U.S. guns into Mexico.
The bill includes some human rights conditions and monitoring of how equipment and training have been used "to make sure U.S. taxpayer dollars are going to support practices consistent with our values," said Lynne Weil, a spokeswoman for Rep. Howard Berman, who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee.
Bill supporters on Tuesday repeatedly praised Mexico President Calderon for escalating his war against the drug cartels. They raised concerns about drug violence in Mexico spilling into the U.S. and noted the slaying of Edgar Millan Gomez, Mexico's acting federal police chief, a position similar to U.S. FBI director. Gomez was shot by a lone gunman May 8 outside his Mexico City apartment. Police blamed the Sinaloa drug cartel.
"It's high time for the United States to do more than applaud President Calderon's courage. We must work together to tackle this difficult problem," Berman said.
But some disagreed. Two Texas Republican lawmakers, Reps. Ted Poe and John Culberson, thwarted Berman's effort to pass the bill on a voice vote.
"We need to defeat this legislation until our southern border is secure," Culberson said.