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Highlights of Senate Iraq war funding bill


By The Associated Press

Highlights of a Senate bill to pay for military and diplomatic operations in Iraq and Afghanistan into next spring. The House passed companion legislation last week after an unusual coalition of anti-war Democrats and Republicans unhappy with domestic add-ons combined to kill $163 billion to fund the war.

The bill would add approximately $66 billion over 10 years to extend unemployment benefits and bolster the GI Bill. It's broken into two components: non-war add-ons and Iraq funding and policy restrictions.

The Senate bill would:

_Provide $165 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan for the rest of this year and several months into 2009, when there is a new president.

_Extend unemployment benefits for workers whose benefits have run out. The extension would cover up to 13 weeks nationwide and an additional 13 weeks in states with unemployment rates of 6 percent or greater, including Michigan, Alaska and California. The cost is estimated at $11.1 billion over 10 years.

_Expand education for active-duty members of the armed forces since Sept. 11, 2001. Under a formula related to years of service, the measure aims to provide the equivalent of a four-year education at a state university. The cost is estimated at $52 billion over the next decade.

_Require that U.S. reconstruction aid to Iraq be matched dollar for dollar by the Iraqi government and require the Iraqi government to fund any project exceeding $2 million.

_Require that a soldier spend no more than one year in Iraq with at least one year at home. Marines could not be deployed for longer than 210 days, with that same amount of time at home. The president could waive this requirement.

_Prohibit permanent bases in Iraq.

_Require intelligence officials adhere to the Army field manual for interrogations; this requirement essentially would ban waterboarding. In this technique, a prisoner is strapped down and his mouth is covered with plastic or cloth. Water then is poured over his face. The prisoner quickly begins to inhale water, causing the sensation of drowning.

_Block new Bush administration regulations that would cut federal spending on Medicaid health care for the poor and disabled by $13 billion over the next five years.

_Provide $8.7 billion in foreign aid and international food assistance over 2008-2009.

_Provide $5.8 billion to strengthen New Orleans levees, as requested by the administration, plus $3.1 billion to help Louisiana "match" federal contributions, will $1 billion for Mississippi coastal protection.

_Provide $1.2 billion for science and health programs, including $200 million for NASA, $200 million for the National Science Foundation to bolster U.S. competitiveness, and $400 million for the National Institutes of Health.

_Provide $451 million to rebuild roads and bridges damaged by natural disasters.

_Provide $490 million in anti-crime grants to states and local governments.

_Provide $437 million for trauma centers for veterans to help their recovery from war-related injuries, especially traumatic brain injury.

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The Senate Revisits Iraq
By Carl Hulse, New York Times

Congress winds up nearly two straight months of business this week as the Senate returns to a familiar issue: the war in Iraq.

Before taking a Memorial Day break, senators will have to navigate a complex series of votes on the war money, a new G.I. education benefit, aid for the unemployed, immigration and even health care. Both sides are still gaming out their strategies on the politically charged votes.

In essence, Senate Democrats are trying an approach similar to one that went somewhat astray in the House last week when Republicans, in an organized protest, abstained from voting on $163 billion in war money and Democrats could not muster a majority to back it, leaving the funding in question.

The Senate will consider a similar series of votes: one on about $165 billion in spending for operations in Afghanistan and Iraq; another on a series of domestic initiatives including added unemployment benefits and a $52 billion veterans education program; and one that would order a withdrawal of most American forces from Iraq by December 2009.

The debate over the G.I. benefit promises to be laden with politics since Senator John McCain of Arizona, the Republican presidential contender, is backing a less costly and less expansive alternative, which Democrats will take pains to point out. But the House version of that proposal pays for the new program with surtax on millionaires, an approach that many senators are reluctant to embrace.

The Senate has also tucked numerous other provisions into its war spending measure, including a proposal to lift a limit on visas for seasonal agriculture workers and a proposal to block some administration changes in Medicaid. Both of those could spark their own disputes.

Both parties expect the multiple restrictions on the conduct of the war to fall short of the 60 votes required to break a filibuster. Besides the withdrawal deadline, they include a requirement that the Iraqi government pay half of any reconstruction costs, a ban on torture, and a prohibition on permanent United States military installations in Iraq. President Bush would veto any such restrictions, and the Senate has always fallen a few votes short when it came to a withdrawal date.

The question for Republicans is how hard do they want to fight some of the Democratic proposals, putting them again in the position of backing Mr. Bush on the unpopular war. Some in the party would prefer moving the bill quickly and letting the president veto it, an outcome that could lead to a subsequent war spending measure without all the extra freight.

Both the House and Senate could consider a final version of their $3 trillion spending plan for the year, a blueprint that could move through on a pure party-line vote.

And House Republicans will meet Tuesday morning to ponder their political future after a series of special election losses , with the most recent being one in Mississippi last Tuesday.

On ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, the House Republican leader, said he intended to hang on to his job, and he expected Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma, the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, to do the same.

“I’m staying,” said Mr. Boehner. “Listen, my job is to help bring all the members together and lead them, and show the American people that we can deliver the kind of changes that they deserve.”

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