The war funding measure, which passed 70-26, will be
combined with a domestic spending package that includes expanded veterans'
education benefits among other programs.
The House still must weigh in on the legislation. Last week, it passed a
drastically different bill that included calls for a timetable on the
withdrawal of U.S. troops
The vote came after Mr. Bush urged Congress to pass a war
funding bill without congressional add-ons during a speech to troops at Fort Bragg
in North Carolina.
Senators cut out all language mandating how the Iraq war is to
be conducted that had been the House version. The bill provides funds into next
spring, when Mr. Bush's successor begins to set war policy.
The separate domestic spending package, which passed 75-22,
served notice to the White House that Congress wants to combine spending in
Iraq with priorities at home during this election year. Republicans who face
reelection broke first on the amendment, followed by GOP senators, the
Washington Post reported.
Mr. Bush has promised to veto any measure that adds domestic
spending to his $108 billion war funds request. The White House was against an
expanded G.I. Bill, saying the cost was too high and that the generous program
could entice soldiers and Marines to depart the overburdened military to earn
veterans benefits rather than reenlist.
The domestic spending package includes $15.6 billion over
two years to extend unemployment benefits by 13 weeks and more than $50 billion
over the upcoming decade to provide returning Iraq war veterans with increased
Among the add-ons included in the legislation, some 25
Republicans abandoned Mr. Bush to endorse money for grants to local police
departments, repairing roads damaged by natural disasters and boosting health
research. Just 22 stood with him.
Such initiatives included $5.8 billion to strengthen New Orleans levees, as requested by the administration,
plus $3.1 billion to help Louisiana
"match" federal contributions, and $1 billion for Mississippi coastal protection.
There was also $850 million for international food aid, $1.9
billion for military construction projects, and several billion dollars in
various foreign aid programs -- all requested by the administration.
Unemployment benefits would be extended 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
The cost is estimated at $11.1 billion over 10 years.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the presumptive GOP nominee,
opposed the bulked-up domestic spending. He advocated a smaller version of the
G.I. Bill, adopting the administration's argument that the original version
would deplete the military. In so doing, McCain went against the wishes of virtually
every veterans organization, from the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American
Legion to the more partisan VoteVets.org,
McCain did not interrupt his campaign schedule to vote, but
Democratic rivals, Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, did.
The House is likely to consider its next step
in early June after lawmakers return from a week-long recess.