Senate approves Iraq supplemental
The Senate approved $165 billion more for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, while defying President Bush and his would-be Republican successor by attaching to the measure a sprawling domestic policy package.
More than half of the 49-member Republican Conference sided with a united Democratic Conference to add to the war bill a package that includes a 13-week extension for unemployment benefits and a major expansion of educational benefits for military personnel serving after Sept. 11, 2001. The 75-22 vote was more than enough to override an anticipated presidential veto. Funding for the war - with no strings attached - was later approved by a 70-26 vote.
Bush and presumptive GOP nominee Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) strongly opposed the domestic spending package, in particular the educational benefits package that is modeled after the GI Bill created for World War II veterans. McCain says that the benefits of the $52 billion are too generous and that it would hurt retention of military personnel. He drafted a narrower $38 billion proposal, which Democrats prevented him and his allies from offering to the emergency war supplemental bill.
McCain missed the votes, but his Democratic opponents returned to Capitol Hill to vote for the domestic policy package. Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.), the likely Democratic nominee, criticized McCain on the floor for opposing the package.
"I can't understand why he would line up behind the president in opposition to this GI bill," the Democratic front-runner said. "I could not disagree with him and the president more on this."
McCain immediately fired back.
"Perhaps if Sen. Obama would take the time and trouble to understand this issue, he would learn to debate an honest disagreement respectfully," McCain stated. "But, as he always does, he prefers impugning the motives of his opponent and exploiting a thoughtful difference of opinion to advance his own ambitions. If that is how he would behave as president, the country would regret his election."
Obama and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) also voted against a measure aimed at restricting Bush's policy on Iraq by setting a goal for redeploying troops by next June. The two have supported much stricter timetables, and the measure failed by a 34-63 vote, The Hill reported.