WASHINGTON – President Bush would get millions of dollars more than he requested for worldwide efforts to fight AIDS (search) but less than he sought for Iraq reconstruction and a key program to encourage global development, under a bill the House approved Friday.
On a 358-39 vote, the House signed off on the spending package that provides $20.9 billion for foreign policy programs and provides financial aid to poor nations for health, education, counter-narcotics and military initiatives. The Senate is expected to approve the bill next week, sending the measure to the president for his signature.
Overall, the package provides $1 billion more for State Department programs than the budget year that ended Sept. 30 but about $2 billion less than what the president wanted, reflecting budget constraints caused by the Iraq war, hurricane recovery and the soaring deficit.
Rep. Jim Kolbe, R-Ariz., the chairman of the Appropriations Committee's foreign operations subcommittee, said Congress was forced to make "hard choices" because of the budget pressures but still was able to fund priorities at "responsible levels."
Democrats praised the bill, with Rep. Nita Lowey of New York, the subcommittee's top Democrat, saying it "puts foreign assistance where it should be — alongside diplomacy and defense as a pillar of U.S. national security strategy."
A compromise between House and Senate measures, the bill commits millions of dollars more to fight the spread of AIDS and other diseases in Africa and poor countries elsewhere. The AIDS effort is slated to get $2.8 billion — $629 million above last year's total and $268 million more than what the president sought for this year.
However, lawmakers sliced the president's request for the Millennium Challenge (search) program, a hallmark in Bush's effort to spread democracy to underdeveloped countries by tying foreign aide to political, economic and human rights reforms. The program has been slow to get off the ground.
The president had wanted $3 billion for the effort, but lawmakers trimmed that to $1.8 billion, citing budget pressures. Nevertheless, the Millennium Challenge program still will get $282 million more than it did last year.
Lawmakers also drastically reduced the president's $459 million request for economic and security programs for Iraq to $61 million. They say that more than $3.5 billion remains from the original $18.4 billion Iraq reconstruction package.
The bill also provides money for countries helping in the war on terrorism (search), including:
—$2.3 billion for military aid and $240 million for economic assistance for Israel.
—$1.3 billion for military aid and $495 million for economic assistance for Egypt.
—$300 million for Pakistan.