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Bush Gets $80B War Chest

The House of Representatives passed a wartime spending bill of nearly $80 billion Saturday, sending President George W. Bush a downpayment on the costs of waging the war against Iraq. The package also combats terrorism, shores up defenses at home and provides new aid to airlines.

The Senate approved the legislation Friday night, and Mr. Bush was expected to sign it into law quickly.

"We pay for the supplies, the ammunition, the training, so that our men and women in uniform can do their jobs in Iraq, in Afghanistan and around the world," said Dennis Hastert, speaker of the Republican-led House.

The bill passed by voice votes in the House and Senate, the last major action before Congress leaves for its two-week spring recess. It moved quickly through Congress as lawmakers sought to show solidarity with U.S. troops but reached its final form only after heated debate over numerous items in the package not directly related to the war, such as agriculture research labs and weather satellites.

The overall bill is dominated by $62.4 billion for Pentagon costs of the Iraq invasion and battles elsewhere against terrorism. Mr. Bush asked Congress for a $74.7 billion version less than three weeks ago.

In a wide divergence from Mr. Bush, lawmakers granted him little of the independence he requested from congressional controls in deciding details of how the money would be spent.

"We are not sworn to uphold a president of the United States," Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd told his colleagues. "We are sworn to uphold the Constitution," which gives lawmakers the power of the purse.

Mr. Bush had wanted unfettered control of $60 billion of the nearly $63 billion the Pentagon would get, but the emerging House-Senate compromise slices the money he would control to $15 billion.

Reversing an earlier decision, lawmakers also voted by voice to require Mr. Bush to notify lawmakers of how he will spend the money five days before he dispenses it.

They also eliminated or limited Mr. Bush's power over other funds he proposed. A $150 million Pentagon fund he requested to help insurgents around the world was eliminated, and $1.5 billion for Homeland Defense Secretary Tom Ridge was chopped to $150 million.

Resolving one dispute, Mr. Bush won the power to give the Pentagon a role in disbursing some of nearly $2.5 billion for rebuilding Iraq and providing humanitarian aid there. Some lawmakers wanted to steer the entire sum to the State Department, but final language included the Defense Department among the agencies that could get the funds, believed by many to be only a start on the ultimate costs.

Aid to U.S. allies and spending to bolster security for U.S. diplomats would come to nearly $8 billion, including $1 billion each for Israel and Turkey and assistance for Colombia, Pakistan and other nations.

There was also an agreement qualifying whether DHL Worldwide Express, a German-owned delivery service, can ship U.S. military cargo.

The aid package for financially struggling U.S. airlines was set at $2.9 billion. It was dominated by cash aid for carriers.


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