US House panel clears emergency war funds
The House of Representatives, however, rejected the Bush administration's new initiative to promote democracy in Iran.india Updated: Mar 09, 2006 11:13 IST
A House of Representatives committee on Wednesday rejected the Bush administration's new initiative to promote democracy in Iran as it approved $71 billion in emergency funds mostly to finance the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Republican-led House Appropriations Committee granted the administration almost all of the $67 billion it wanted for the wars, and ordered that some $1.3 billion be used to upgrade armour on Army vehicles after the Pentagon was criticised for skimping on those protections for troops in Iraq.
Lawmakers also took aim at several of President George W Bush's plans for $4.1 billion in emergency foreign aid.
The emergency spending package, which totalled $91 billion also included $19.1 billion in relief for the hurricane-battered US Gulf Coast.
The committee cut most of the $75 million Bush sought for new pro-democracy efforts in Iran, calling the plan announced with fanfare last month poorly justified.
The committee instead funded existing pro-democracy programs for the country now locked in an international standoff over its nuclear program.
Lawmakers also slashed most of the $62 million in aid the administration wanted for Afghanistan because the State Department has not declared that the Kabul government is fully cooperating with efforts to fight the country's poppy trade, which yields most of the world's heroin.
At Democrats' urging, the committee added $50 million in aid to Liberia, on top of $128 million already approved, to show support for the new president of the war-torn country, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Africa's first elected woman leader.
Lawmakers also agreed to put into law a block on aid to the Palestinian Authority unless the new government being formed by the militant group Hamas renounces terrorism and recognises Israel's right to exist, backing Bush's stance. The amendment would not impede humanitarian relief to the Palestinian people, lawmakers said.
The war funds for the Pentagon would come on top of the $320 billion the White House budget office said has been allocated so far, and costs are expected to climb to around $500 billion by next year with the bulk going to Iraq.
"I believe in the end DOD (Department of Defence) will get virtually everything it asks for. It almost always does," said Rep. David Obey of Wisconsin, the committee's top Democrat and a critic of Bush's Iraq policies.
The committee's evening meeting was interrupted twice by Iraq war protesters, who were forcibly removed from the room.