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Congress approves $106 bln for war, swine flu

Lawmakers in Congress on Tuesday passed a 106 billion dollar emergency bill to finance the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, shore up efforts to fight swine flu, and fund US participation in the IMF.

world Updated: Jun 17, 2009 07:38 IST

Lawmakers in Congress on Tuesday passed a 106 billion dollar emergency bill to finance the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, shore up efforts to fight swine flu, and fund US participation in the IMF.

By a vote of 226 to 202, the House of Representatives approved a compromise version of the legislation, to reconcile differing House and Senate versions.

The measure is to provide funds through September 30 -- the end of the current fiscal year.

Among other budget items, the measure provides 79.9 billion dollars for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, 7.7 billion dollars to combat the A(H1N1) flu virus, and eight billion dollars for the International Monetary Fund.

House Democrat David Obey, a key figure during negotiations on the spending measure talks in that chamber, acknowledged some resistance among lawmakers to the IMF funding, but said the monies were necessary to bolster a still-sagging global economy.

"You know, this is a tough reality. We have to participate in the world, and when the world economy becomes shaky, we have a responsibility to ourselves to try to stabilize that world economic situation," he said.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer on the floor of the chamber called the bill "vital to our national security."

He hailed the funds "for preparedness against pandemic flu at a time when the World Health Organization has declared the first worldwide flu epidemic in 41 years."

"If anyone intends to vote against flu preparedness today, I hope that they will come to the floor and explain the gamble that they are prepared to make with our nation's health," he said.

Lawmakers also approved a line of credit for the International Monetary Fund which Hoyer called "an insurance policy for the global economy."

"If all goes well, the money will never leave the United States. But if all does not go well, if the global economy sees another economic shock, this money will help the IMF provide loans to the countries in greatest danger of economic collapse," Hoyer said.

Republican argued against the funds, which they said could be used to provide financial aid to countries at odds with the United States, among other objections.

The bill also provides one billion dollars for the so-called "cash for clunkers" program to stimulate the struggling auto industry, paying car buyers cash if they trade in their old gas-guzzling cars for newer more fuel-efficient models.

The supplemental spending measure was bogged down after the Senate legislation -- over the objections of Democrats in the House -- banned public release of the controversial images allegedly showing abuse of detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan at the hands of US military personnel.

President Barack Obama broke the logjam last week, however, offering in a letter to negotiators, to "continue to take every legal and administrative remedy available to me to ensure the ... detainee photographs are not released."

The compromise bill also includes provisions on prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay, but does not include the 80 million dollars originally requested by the Obama administration to close the detention facility at the US naval base in southern Cuba, where some 230 detainees remain.

Under the agreement reached by the Senate and the House, a Democratic source said the government could transfer some prisoners to US soil only to face trial, although the highly sensitive issue of where they would serve out their sentence remains unresolved.