WASHINGTON: The US House of Representatives passed a US$453.3 billion defence spending bill on Thursday, which included US$50 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and funding for other needs including rebuilding from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.
The bill, which now goes to US President George W. Bush for his signature, was approved by the Senate on Wednesday after Democrats forced the Republican majority to strip from it a measure opening an Alaskan wildlife refuge to oil drilling.
The US$50 billion for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars is to carry the Pentagon until Congress acts on another emergency war supplemental next year, which lawmakers expect to be between US$80 billion and US$100 billion.
The Pentagon is spending an estimated US$6 billion a month on the Iraq war effort.
House passage of the defence spending bill also brings to a close debates that raged all autumn over funding for rebuilding from the destruction of Hurricane Katrina, and avian flu prevention.
Anti-terror act extended
The US House of Representatives on Thursday agreed to extend until February 3 key provisions of the anti-terrorism USA Patriot Act that had been set to expire at the end of the month, allowing time for lawmakers to consider civil liberties protections.
The Senate was expected to agree to a short extension of existing law Thursday night, even though it had approved a six-month extension on Wednesday.
The shorter timetable was sought by House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner, a Wisconsin Republican, who is pushing for the Senate to accept a White House-backed compromise to make the law permanent. Sensenbrenner said he wanted to keep lawmakers to a tight deadline.
A senior administration official said President George W. Bush would sign a one-month extension of the act even though he had objected to any temporary extension of the current law and wanted Congress to accept the compromise.
Senate Democrats, joined by a handful of Republicans, blocked that compromise arguing more time was needed to ensure a balance between national security and the civil liberties of Americans. The battle over the Patriot was heightened by recent disclosures that Bush authorized spying on Americans with suspected ties to terrorists without seeking a court order.
Sensenbrenner defended the compromise, which passed the House, saying it contained more protections than the current law that is being extended.
Source: China Daily