House, Senate pass war supplemental spending bill

The House and Senate Thursday night approved separate versions of a fiscal 2003 war supplemental spending bill that with amendments totaled almost $80 billion.

Senators voted 93-0 to approve their version of the supplemental. The House vote was 414-12.

During Senate floor debate Thursday, the chamber added $105 million to the supplemental for grants to states to provide smallpox and other bioterrorism inoculation efforts. The amendment, offered by Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., was agreed to by voice vote. Senators also accepted $155 million in new spending for veterans' care in an amendment by Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla.

The Senate debated rival amendments by Sens. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Arlen Specter, R-Pa., to increase funding for high-threat high-density urban areas. It adopted Specter's amendment on a 66-31 vote and rejected Schumer's by 51-46. Specter's amendment would add $200 million in aid and redirect another $300 million.

Unlike the House, the Senate avoided votes on two hot-button issues, after Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., withdrew his amendment to block Iraqi reconstruction funds from going to citizens or businesses based in France and Germany, and Sen. Jim Talent, R-Mo., withdrew his amendment to add language to the airline aid package dealing with labor issues raised when airlines combine.

The Senate defeated an effort by Sen. John Breaux, D-La., to increase counterterrorism and homeland security spending by $2.65 billion, tabling the amendment by a vote of 52-46. The regular attempt by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., to strip several earmarks from the bill, was tabled by a 60-39 margin.

And Appropriations ranking member Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., saw his push to protect Congress' power of the purse in allocating homeland security spending fail; it was tabled on a 51-46 vote.

Just prior to final passage, Stevens said he was formally withdrawing an amendment to increase the statutory federal debt limit.

The House debate dragged into the night as House members voted 315-110 to kill an amendment by Rep. Randy (Duke) Cunningham, R-Calif., that would have stripped from the bill $1 billion in aid to Turkey.

White House officials stepped up lobbying efforts to retain the aid, which they said could help build strained relations with Turkey, even as Republicans complained about Turkey's lack of responsiveness to U.S. needs in the war against Iraq.

Meanwhile, Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., after a colloquy on the House floor, decided to withdraw an amendment that would have reduced the $3.2 billion airline assistance package in the bill by $2 billion.

The House approved an amendment offered by Rep. George Nethercutt, R-Wash., to prohibit companies based in countries that opposed the United States' Iraq war resolution before the U.N. Security Council-such as France, Germany, Russia, China and Syria-from obtaining federal contracts for reconstruction projects in Iraq.

There had been some concern Thursday night that the parliamentarian would rule the amendment out of order because it creates new responsibilities for federal procurement officers.