WASHINGTON — The House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday approved a special spending bill, primarily for funding the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, that includes $1.8 billion more for the Defense Department than President Bush had requested.
The action provided an early test of Bush's latest budget, which shows deficits of $427 billion for fiscal 2005 and $390 billion for fiscal 2006. The bill now goes to the full House.
Bush had requested $81.8 billion in this supplemental appropriation, and the legislation provides $81.3 billion. However, the committee approved more than Bush had sought for the Defense Department -- $76.8 billion, compared with the White House request of $75 billion.
"Supporting our troops is the primary reason for this bill," said Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Redlands), the committee chairman.
At the same time, the bill provided $650 million less than Bush had asked for in foreign aid. Lewis proposed spending $800 million less than Bush had wanted, but an amendment by Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) to restore $150 million for food aid to Sudan passed by a vote of 32 to 31 with the support of three Republicans. The bill also includes $656 million for relief for the victims of the Dec. 26 tsunami in Asia, but it rescinds $1 billion in unspent housing aid to Turkey dating back to 2003.
The Senate Appropriations Committee has yet to act on its version of the legislation. House and Senate leaders hope a compromise bill can go to the White House for Bush's signature shortly after the two-week spring recess ends April 5.
Rep. C.W. "Bill" Young (R-Fla.), chairman of the defense appropriations subcommittee, said Tuesday that the troops would get needed supplies for Iraq and Afghanistan: body armor, ammunition, weapons, jammers, night-vision equipment and armored Humvees. The bill would also provide $5.7 billion to train and equip the Iraqi armed forces and $1.3 billion for the same purpose in Afghanistan.
An additional $3.1 billion would go to the Pentagon for items including new overseas bases and a $100,000 "enhanced death gratuity" for families of personnel killed overseas.
The State Department would get $2.6 billion, including $592 million to build an embassy in Baghdad that would employ 4,000 people.
Jackson first proposed adding $250 million to global humanitarian relief -- the $150 million in food for Sudan alone, plus $62 million for Sudan and other African countries, including Congo, Uganda, Liberia and Ethiopia. That effort was defeated on an almost strictly party-line vote of 33 to 30.
Then he offered only the $150 million in food for Sudan, saying 1,300 people a day were dying in the western region of Darfur.
His amendment prevailed with the support of three Republicans: Jo Ann Emerson of Missouri, Todd Tiahrt of Kansas and Frank R. Wolf of Virginia.
The committee's Californians voted by party line, with Republicans Lewis, Randy "Duke" Cunningham of San Diego and John T. Doolittle of Rocklin voting no on both Jackson amendments and Democrats Sam Farr of Carmel and Lucille Roybal-Allard of East Los Angeles voting yes.
Rep. Henry Bonilla (R-Texas) argued that U.S. aid already provided to Sudan was enough to halt starvation. "We should not apologize for America's record of helping people around the world," he said.
"People need the food now," retorted Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.). "They cannot wait for another vote. They cannot wait for another debate."