Legislation to provide $165 billion to continue the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, plus $10 billion for military and civil construction, now heads to the House after Senate approval by unexpectedly wide margins.
The Senate on May 22 passed a supplemental spending bill containing the construction aid and expanded veterans’ education benefits. Despite a White House veto threat, 25 Republicans voted for the bill. The Senate also cleared a second measure containing the war funds on a 70-26 vote.
One bill has $10 billion for construction including aid to upgrade Louisiana levees.
The House is expected to take up the spending bills after the Memorial Day recess. On May 15 that chamber approved a $21-billion non-war funding bill that has about $10 billion for construction, though its funding allocations differ from the Senate version. Complicating matters, the House failed to pass a war-funding bill.
The Senate and House bills each have $5.8 billion to upgrade levees and other flood protection in Louisiana. The House version also would provide $4.6 billion for military construction. The Senate bill contains about $3.4 billion for Defense Dept. projects.
Many of the military projects specified in the Senate bill are in Iraq and Afghanistan, but there is substantial funding in both measures for work on domestic posts. For example, the House allots $939 million to the current Base Realignment and Closure round. The Senate has $1.2 billion for BRAC.
After the House acts, a showdown looms with the White House, which blasted the bills’ price tags and promised a veto. But the Senate majority on the non-war funding bill exceeds the two-thirds needed to override a veto.