President Bush signed the last major war funding bill of his presidency Monday morning, culminating months of deliberations with Congress on a massive measure to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan well into next year.
"This bill shows the American people that even in an election year, Republicans and Democrats can come together to support our troops and their families," Bush said in a signing ceremony at the White House.
However, it wasn’t always all smiles, as the two sides of Pennsylvania Avenue spent months quarrelling over how much domestic spending to add on to the must-pass bill.
For months, the administration held firm on their $108 billion spending limit for the bill, prompting Congress to draft several different versions of the measure before finally reaching an agreement.
In the end, the $162 billion package funds the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan well into 2009, provides a 13-week extension of unemployment benefits and $2.7 billion in emergency flood relief for the Midwest.
However, the cornerstone of the agreement is an unprecedented expansion of education benefits for returning war veterans, which congressional Democrats pushed hard for throughout the negotiations.
Bush was joined at the ceremony by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, Veterans’ Affairs Secretary James Peake and John Walters, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
Walters was on hand to hail the passage of over $400 million to help combat drug trafficking in Mexico, which was also included in the bill.