The House debate over a $81.4 billion spending package for war is providing Democrats a platform to assail President Bush’s handling of Iraq.
“Why are we writing another check for a mission that’s been so badly botched?” asked Rep. Lynn Woolsey of California, an anti-war Democrat who has proposed withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq. “Who’s being held responsible for the misuse of the money we’ve already approved?”
In spite of criticism of the administration’s post-invasion strategy and what Democrats called lapses in accountability by the White House, the House was poised to give Bush much of what he wanted for combat and reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Swift passage of the package with bipartisan support is expected in the House, possibly as early as Wednesday. The Senate won’t craft its version until next month.
However, the president won’t get $590 million to build a U.S. embassy in Baghdad. On Tuesday, the House approved an amendment – on a 258-170 vote – that bars money in the spending package from being used for embassy security, construction and maintenance.
“This is not an argument about priorities but rather process,” said Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., the sponsor of the amendment. An embassy should not be paid for through a spending bill intended for emergencies, he said.
While debating the bill, Rep. Ike Skelton of Missouri, the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, criticized what he called the administration’s failure to account for war costs and its lack of a coherent strategy for success in Iraq.
“This is far from a perfect way of running Operation Iraqi Freedom,” Skelton said.
Rep. David Obey of Wisconsin, the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, said, “The full cost of this war is being revealed a little bit at a time on the installment plan.”
The House bill, which would provide $76.8 billion for defense-related expenses, is roughly $500 million less than the president’s request.
On Tuesday, the House added $100 million to the bill for Sudan relief through an amendment sponsored by Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill.
It also added a measure that would tighten border security, the same measure approved as a stand-alone bill in February. Doing that ensures the Senate will address it when House and Senate negotiators write a final version of the war spending legislation.
The border security bill faces stiff opposition in the Senate in part because senators who have been pushing comprehensive immigration reform see the House as taking a piecemeal approach.
On the Net:
The war spending package is H.R. 1268, the border security bill is H.R. 418
For more information on the bills: http://thomas.loc.gov
Defense Department: http://www.defense.gov