JOHN YDSTIE, host:
The House of Representative is expected to give final passage today to a gigantic omnibus bill that combines all domestic federal spending and ends talk of a possible government shutdown.
It's a bill the White House says President Bush is ready to sign. That's because late last night the Senate added the measure exactly what the president requested - funds to keep fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with no strings attached.
NPR's David Welna has the story.
DAVID WELNA: The omnibus spending bill the House sent the Senate did include war funding. It's just that the $30 billion House Democrats approved were entirely for the war in Afghanistan and not one penny for Iraq. That's why President Bush threatened to veto the entire bill. So the onus was on the Senate either to come up with war funding the president would accept or see him reject the bill.
Minority leader Mitch McConnell proposed replacing the House war funding with $70 billion for both Iraq and Afghanistan. And he had a warning for his colleagues.
Senator MITCH McCONNELL (Republican, Kentucky): The president has made it absolutely clear that to get a presidential signature, to wrap up the session, having succeeded in passing all of our appropriation bills will require the passage of the McConnell-Lieberman amendment.
WELNA: That did not stop Wisconsin Democrat Russ Feingold, though, from trying to attach a binding requirement that most U.S. troops be out of Iraq a year from now.
Senator RUSS FEINGOLD (Democrat, Wisconsin): It is up to us here in Congress to reverse what continues to be an intractable policy. It is our job to listen to the American people, to save American lives, and to protect our nation's security by redeploying our troops from Iraq, because the president will not do it.
WELNA: Massachusetts Democrat Edward Kennedy pointed out that President Bush insisted on cutting back an array of social spending in the omnibus.
Senator EDWARD KENNEDY (Democrat, Massachusetts): It's wrong to neglect priorities like these at home, pour hundreds of billions of dollars into the black hole the Iraq war has become. It's wrong to give the president another huge blank check for the war in Iraq. Inough is enough. Enough is enough. Inough.
WELNA: But the president's allies themselves had had enough of the repeated failed attempts this year by Democrats to put strings on war funding.
Here's Alabama Republican Jeff Sessions.
Senator JEFF SESSIONS (Republican, Alabama): Let's reject the tactical decisions of General Feingold and General Kennedy. We've got a professional there who's achieving things beyond what I would have thought possible just a few months ago.
WELNA: Democratic presidential contenders Barack Obama, Christopher Dodd and Hillary Clinton all co-sponsored Feingold's troop redeployment amendment, but none of them left the campaign trail to vote for it. One presidential hopeful who did show up was Republican John McCain, who led opposition to Feingold's measure.
Senator JOHN McCAIN (Republican, Arizona; Presidential Candidate): The choice today is simple. Do we build upon the clear successes of our current strategy and give General Petraeus and the troops under his command the support they require to complete their mission, or do we ignore the realities and legislate a premature end to our efforts in Iraq, accepting thereby all the terrible consequences that will ensue?
WELNA: Seventy-one senators voted against Feingold's measure. Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin then offered a similar measure but with no obligation for the president to carry it out.
Senator CARL LEVIN (Democrat, Michigan): I cannot believe that the president of the United States is going to veto a bill providing this additional funding for the troops because the Senate, in a nonbinding resolution, expresses its belief that we ought to have a nonbinding timetable for the reduction of our troops by the end of the year.
WELNA: But Connecticut independent Joe Lieberman, who co-sponsored the $70 billion in war funding, urged colleagues to refrain from putting any conditions on it.
Senator JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (Independent, Connecticut): Let's do something that we in Congress don't do very well, which is to remain silent.
WELNA: Still, 50 senators voted for Levin's measure, 10 short of the 60 needed for it to pass. So then 70 senators approved the $70 billion with no strings attached - money that's expected to last until May.
David Welna, NPR News, the Capitol.
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