Congress approves Iraq war funds

The Senate passed a $162 billion war spending plan Thursday, sending to President Bush legislation that will pay for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan until the next president takes office.

The package, approved 92-6, includes a doubling of GI Bill college benefits for troops and veterans. It also provides a 13-week extension of unemployment benefits and $2.7 billion in emergency flood relief for the Midwest.

The Senate, however, narrowly failed to approve a House-passed bill to cancel a scheduled cut in payments to doctors who treat Medicare patients.

It also failed to resolve differences over home mortgage legislation and the administration’s electronic surveillance program. Those matters will await lawmakers when they return from a 10-day July break.

The spending bill will bring to more than $650 billion the amount Congress has provided for the Iraq war since it started more than five years ago. For operations in Afghanistan, the total is nearly $200 billion, according to congressional officials.

Last week, the House approved the war funding measure, 268-155. The domestic add-ons were approved separately by a 416-12 vote. The White House has said it supports the combined measure, which technically allowed the measure to advance without senators having to vote specifically for the war funding, a distasteful matter for many Democrats.

As for Medicare, a 10.6 percent reduction in doctors’ payments remains scheduled to take effect Tuesday. It was triggered by Medicare spending levels that exceeded established targets.

The Senate fell one vote short of the 60 needed to pass the bill under expedited rules. Nine Republicans joined Democrats in backing it. But most of the Senate’s 49 Republicans voted against it, noting that the Bush administration has hinted at a possible veto. The insurance industry, in particular, opposed the bill.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., changed his vote from yes to no in a procedural move to enable him to bring up the bill later. He ridiculed Republicans who sided with Bush in opposing the bill.

"Who would be afraid of him?" Reid said as many senators looked on. "He’s got a 29 percent approval rating."

Some of the roughly 600,000 doctors who treat Medicare patients have said they would be reluctant to take on new elderly and disabled patients if the reimbursement cut takes effect.

Avoiding the cuts in Medicare physician payments has become an annual event for Congress, but finding the money invariably requires trimming payments to other health care providers. Democrats this year focused on taking the money from the Medicare Advantage program. It lets the elderly and disabled receive health benefits through a private insurer rather than through traditional Medicare.

The bill that fell short Thursday would have reduced payments to insurers by about $14 billion over five years. Insurers say the financial hit would have come at the expense of millions of Medicare Advantage participants.

But Democratic lawmakers, citing findings by an independent advisory commission, said the payments are overly generous and make it harder to sustain Medicare for future generations.

Many pharmacists support the bill because it would delay payment cuts through Medicaid. Pharmacists also support a provision that would require Medicare drug plans to reimburse them within 14 days of an electronic billing and within 30 days for paper claims.

The bill has also generated support from rural hospitals and ambulance providers that would have received more Medicare funding.

In the House, lawmakers approved financial help for mass transit systems facing a surge in riders because of high fuel prices. But Republicans blocked Democrats from requiring oil and gas companies to forfeit their leases if they don’t drill on the millions of acres of government land and water they lease.

Senators were unable to resolve differences on the housing and surveillance legislation. A dispute over taxes continued to stall the mortgage-finance bill, which would allow the government to back $300 billion in cheaper loans for homeowners facing foreclosure.

Majorities in both chambers appear to support such a bill. But Senate progress faltered when Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., insisted on adding an $8 billion package of tax breaks for renewable energy producers.

The incentives have bipartisan backing. But House Democrats oppose including them without balancing them with tax hikes to prevent an increase in the deficit.

The surveillance bill would provide legal immunity to telecommunications companies that helped the government wiretap American phone and computer lines without court permission after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

It also would make it easier for the government to tap the calls and e-mails of suspected terrorists. Its detractors contend that it does not protect Americans’ privacy rights while its champions argue that it strikes the right balance between civil liberties and security. The bill passed the House with a strong majority last week.


  1. woody188

    Says it all about this Congress. Money for fighting, no money for health care or mortgage relief, and a continuation of Bush policies unimpeded.

    Still think Democrats are different than Republicans?

  2. Sandra Price

    We have 5 months left under Bush. I cannot understand why we would vote to keep our Congress. I believe that once a Democrat majority is firmed up, we might see a move to cut back government spending which would also cut taxes and give all of us some relief. Government health care would break our budget to the point that all other programs would have to be scaled down to exclude the gocvernment care and repair of our structures. We have seen lazy actions that have allowed our dams, levees, other natural disasters to fail, that resulted in deaths.

    The federal government will have to guarantee all loans made to people without strong credit. The government will then have to guarantee our insurance on the homes, cars and businesses. This is not what I want for a government. I want a government that keeps us out of war and if they have the authority to build our dams and levees, they damn well better keep them up. Our federal government is far too large to take care of us. We must take care of ourselves and let the churches help out with those who cannot. Survival must be part of our academics as it seems our government is breeding sheep not American citizens.

  3. ekaton

    “Government health care would break our budget to the point that all other programs would have to be scaled down to exclude the gocvernment care and repair of our structures. We have seen lazy actions that have allowed our dams, levees, other natural disasters to fail, that resulted in deaths.”

    We have spent $650 billion dollars so far in Iraq and another $200 billion in Afghanistan. This does NOT include the yearly greater than $600 billion dollar Pentagon budget. Much of this is borrowed funds. Or priorities are misplaced. For this kind of money we could have had more than adequate alternate energy in place, could have repaired all of our roads, bridges and dams, could have built a sophisticated dike and levee system all up and down the Mississippi and Missouri and thier tributaries AND COULD HAVE PROVIDED A SINGLE PAYER HEALTH CARE SYSTEM AND HAD HUNDREDS OF BILLIONS LEFT OVER OR AT LEAST NOT BORROWED FROM COMMUNIST RED CHINA.

    I know that you are philosphically opposed to a single payer health care system or national health care or whatever you want to call it. Thats fine. But I cannot think of a greater waste of people and resources than WAR. Every dime spent results in little or no return on “investment”. If we spend our funds on alternate energy sources and roads and bridges and dams and levees and dikes, ALL SOCIALIST PROGRAMS by the way, we have something to show for it, a sound national infrastructure, not just a bunch of destroyed buildings.

    — Kent Shaw

  4. Klaus Hergeschimmer

    Hey Sandra, what does it mean in this article regarding retro-active immunity for telecoms when it states that ‘Senators were unable to resolve differences on the housing and surveillance legislation’. Does that mean that nohting happend either way on legislation for retro-active immunity,that they got to go back and visit this again.

    If the senate does approve retro-active immunity for telecoms then this continues to cement the Democrappers complicity with the Chimp’s constitution destroying agenda. Stupid Jack-Ass Party.

  5. Sandra Price

    It means that those telecommunications organizations cannot be sued by their customers if their information has handed to the government. This is exactly are you stated. Many feel that having cell phones will prevent this from happening but that is no longer the case. The Senate is molding their group to reflect Julius Caesar’s Senate; frightened and ill-equiped for the job. I think you nailed it quite right.

    They are soon going home for the Summer to make promises for reelection.

  6. RSW

    Like a broken record, around and around it goes. When it stops, nobody seems to know.

    Or is it a broken Congress. Ooops!!! I mean congress…


  7. Flapsaddle

    Once again, the Democrats have shown that they are perfectly comfortable continuing as indictable co-conspirators of the GOP. Absent any gonads or ovaries, the so-called “party of the people” voted to give a bit more life-support to an unnecessary and debilitating war in Iraq.

    Neither party is possessed of any principles other than wanting to be the head swine at the public trough.

    Most sincerely,

    T. J. Flapsaddle

  8. Klaus Hergeschimmer

    You know what T.J., the latest thing to send up red flag about Obama is he will not join Russ Feingold & Chris Dodd in a fillibuster against retro-active immunity for telecoms. That for me is a litmus test and Obama failed it horribly.

    I will not be voting for any Lexus Liberals of the ilk of Sir Obama of Camelot. He’s preferable to Hillary, but that’s not saying much in my book.

  9. Flapsaddle

    I believe he is in the process of being (re?)captured by the system; for example, he now sports one of those support-da-troops lapel flag-pins – something significantly absent during all of those times when he was not a presidential. As with any practical politician, he understands that he must be elected and that one gets elected by not offending critical voting groups.

    He will of course reposition himself somewhat more towards the centroid of the electorate now that he has successfully used his novelty to gain recognition.

    Most sincerely,

    T. J. Flapsaddle

  10. old_curmudgeon

    As has been stated numerous times here, there are no differences between the two dominant parties. None. So why do people keep looking for one? Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

    The only real changes Obama offers is: he’s black, he’s not a Washingtonian (yet – he’s only been there a couple of years so far), people believe in what he says (they haven’t learned yet), and he’s not Bush or Cheney. Remember, if elected, he still has to rely on Reid and Pelosi (assuming they get re-installed in their current positions – and change here would be very good) and their followers to get ANYTHING done. If they don’t want something to happen, it ain’t gonna happen.

    A young, inexperienced pol sitting at 1600 is not going to control what happens on the hill. He has no “political capital” yet – or not enough to get his way. You think Murtha is gonna bend over and kiss this guys ass? Right.

    If elected, he may be the “President” but until he proves himself and puts people in his pocket, he isn’t going to be the Democratic Party “leader” – and that mantle right now, my guess is, still belongs to the Clintons.

    And what’s with these fkng annoying popup/falldown/can’t stop ads? I thought management got rid of these here at CHB. Imagine the possibilities? I’ll bet that the majority of page visitors do not visit banner ads, especially those that are in-your-face? This type of begging is more appropriate on AOL/YAHOO than here where you’d expect to find thinking people visiting.

    But, that’s just this old curmudgeon’s opinion…

    “Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it.” ~ Mark Twain

  11. ekaton

    Second that!!!! Dump the popup floating ads, whatever you call them, they are MOST annoying.

    — Kent Shaw

  12. Sandra Price

    First things first, Old Curmudgeon. WE must dump the Bush Administration 100%. No, Obama’s no bargain but it is something that must be done. The GOP is filled with some of the most ignorant people on this planet. They want all their problems solved by the Government. Half of us want individual freedoms and the other half want our sins banned. Everytime I watch CSPAN and see the crap our government is debating, I want to run screaming out of the country. They are given bills that are redundant and simply take up time when actual gocernment issues are set aside. But we can’t handle this in one action.

    Before we can build the house the way we want it, we have to rid it of termites and treasonist representatives. We should be working on future plans for America but we still want to hand the government our social issues. The fight for Jesus is neverending and it is ruining the freedoms of half the American voters. I seriously doubt if America can ever again use the word freedom as we sold it to a religious movement in the government.

    The problem is that there is nowhere else to live. We can find a state or two who is willing to leave the Union or we can do what millions of others have and move to Central America. The problem is that Super Highway will soon take over Central and South America and give the Republicans their Empire.

    I long for a group to put together their priorities before 2012 so we can locate an agenda for changes that we agree must be made. We need people who are eager to run for the Senate or House and have a firm agenda to get their voters lined up.

    How do we clear the reputation of America when we allow torture and even rape in our prisons? How do we ever trust another candidate when they promise the impossible to the voters? We thought we had it with Goldwater but it was the Republicans who pulled the plug. Republicans must be tossed and a brand new group put together. The Democrats are no bargain and they should do the same thing. The two parties must be carefully designed by an agenda that they run by and win by. It was simpler when the Democrats wanted a bigger government and higher taxes. The GOP ran on a limited government and lower taxes. It’s now one smelly rancid soup.