Senate OKs record defense bill
Friday, September 29th 2006, 10:26 am
By: News On 6
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Senate unanimously approved $70 billion more for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan Friday as part of a record Pentagon budget.
The bill, now on its way to the White House for President Bush's signature, totals $448 billion. It was passed by a 100-0 vote after minimal debate.
Approval by a comfortable margin came despite intense partisan divisions over the course of the Iraq war, which is costing about $8 billion a month. Another infusion of money will be needed next spring.
The House-Senate compromise bill provides $378 billion for core Pentagon programs, about a 5 percent increase, though slightly less than President Bush asked for. The $70 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan is a down payment on war costs the White House has estimated will hit $110 billion for the budget year beginning Oct. 1.
Congress has now approved $507 billion for Iraq, Afghanistan and heightened security at overseas military bases since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, according to the Congressional Research Service. The war in Iraq has cost $379 billion and the conflict in Afghanistan now totals $97 billion.
The Iraq war continues to be unpopular with voters, according to opinion polls, but even Democratic opponents of the war voted for the Pentagon measure, which provides funding for body armor and other support for U.S. troops overseas.
``America is in deep trouble in Iraq,'' said Edward Kennedy, D-Mass. ``The continuing violence and death is ominous.... Militias are growing in strength and continue to operate outside the law. Death squads are rampant.''
The growing price tag of the Iraq conflict is partly driven by the need to repair and replace military equipment worn out in harsh, dusty conditions in Iraq and Afghanistan or destroyed in battle. Almost $23 billion was approved for Army, Marine Corps and National Guard equipment such as helicopters, armored Humvees, Bradley armored fighting vehicles, radios and night-vision equipment.
Lawmakers allotted $1.9 billion for new jammers to counter improvised explosive devices in Iraq and Afghanistan and $1 billion is provided for body armor and other personal protective gear.