Congress voted overwhelmingly Thursday to give President Bush about $80 billion for initial costs of the invasion of Iraq and other anti-terrorism efforts after thwarting conservatives trying to lash out at Turkey and other nations for hindering the U.S. war effort.
Senators approved their measure 93-0 and the House adopted a similar bill by 414-12, underscoring lawmakers' resolve to back U.S. forces in the field. The votes put the two chambers on track to send President Bush a final package by his deadline of April 11, which would be uncommonly swift for a Congress that received his request for $74.7 billion only a week ago.
Though lawmakers reined in President Bush's request to control most of the funds and added aid for airlines and other items, the vote gave him a welcome victory on Capitol Hill, a week after the Senate voted to cut in half his plan for new tax cuts.
"It's imperative that we complete this bill ... and get the bill on the president's desk," said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn.
The lopsided votes masked partisan disputes that raged in both chambers over the measures' funds for security at home. Both bills contained more than $4 billion for securing potential terrorist targets on America's shores, which Democrats said fell billions short.
"As we support men and women in uniform in Iraq, it's hard to understand how we can underfund the needs of our men and women in uniform in the front lines of homeland defense in America," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters.
Besides domestic security funds, both bills contained more than $62 billion for the Pentagon and roughly $8 billion for aid to countries supporting U.S. efforts overseas. Included was money for replacing satellite-guided munitions, setting up a tribunal to try Iraqi President Saddam Hussein for alleged war crimes and letting state and local agencies bolster security at home.
The House plan came to $77.9 billion, the Senate's nearly $80 billion as it grew throughout the day with amendments. The money is for the next six months and would come from enlarging federal deficits, which could approach $400 billion this year and next.
Though victory loomed, the administration found itself having to lobby legislators at both ends of the Capitol to control their anger at erstwhile U.S. allies who have impeded the war effort.
The White House is reluctant to antagonize any countries that may play a postwar role in Iraq for reconstruction, humanitarian aid or peacekeeping, or in other counterterrorism fights.
"Despite recent difficulties, the president is devoted to maintaining the strategic partnership" with Turkey, White House national security adviser Condoleezza Rice wrote. A letter by Richard Armitage, deputy secretary of state, said it would be "particularly damaging to our diplomacy" to strip the $1 billion President Bush has requested for Turkey.
The push seemed to bear fruit when the House voted 315-110 to reject an attempt by conservatives to kill the aid for Turkey, which refused to serve as a gateway to northern Iraq for an American invasion force.
"The message should be, 'Don't tread on me,"' said chief sponsor Rep. Randy Cunningham, R-Calif. "Someone that is responsible for killing my friends and American soldiers, I just don't feel they should be rewarded."
Earlier, Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., abruptly withdrew an amendment - under administration pressure - that would have barred any of the plan's nearly $2.5 billion for rebuilding Iraq from going to French and German companies. Those countries vociferously opposed the U.S. attack.
"I believe their behavior leading up to this was really quite despicable," Ensign said of the two European nations.
"If America is going to become an arrogant nation and do things only our way, this is a good way to begin," retorted Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.
Conservatives won a voice vote in the House making it harder for companies from France, Germany, Russia or Syria to win U.S. funds for rebuilding Iraq. Critics said the language had loopholes and hinted it was unlikely to survive upcoming House-Senate bargaining.
By a single voice vote, the Senate added more than 30 amendments, with everything from $10 million for a South Pole research station to a repeal of language enacted earlier this year weakening the requirements for labeling food as organic.
The bills offered money to help financially beleaguered U.S. airlines - $3.2 billion in the House bill, $2.7 billion in the Senate's. The administration wants to reduce those amounts.
Democrats in the GOP-run Congress continued their drive to bolster the domestic security initiatives in the bill, a theme they have used repeatedly in recent weeks as a way to criticize the White House. In the House, Republicans use a parliamentary maneuver to prevent a direct vote on a $2.5 billion proposal Democrats wanted for police, firefighters and other first responders.
In the Senate, Republicans struck deals with Democrats on some amendments. They agreed with Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., to add $155 million for veterans' care and with Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., to insert $105 million to help administer smallpox vaccines to state and local emergency workers.
The Senate also voted 66-31 for a Republican amendment adding $200 million to the bill to increase spending for first responders in big cities, like New York, considered at higher risk for terrorist attacks. The Senate then defeated Democrats seeking a $2.3 billion increase, 51-46.
But GOP leaders fought off other amendments.
By Alan Fram