Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Border-ID Plan Delayed Until 2009

A plan to tighten U.S. borders by requiring a passport or a tamper-resistant identification card from everyone entering the country by land from Mexico and Canada has been delayed until June 2009.

House and Senate lawmakers said yesterday that they want to make sure that the new ID cards being developed by the Bush administration would better secure borders against terrorists without slowing legitimate travelers from Canada and Mexico. The new IDs would be required of Americans and all others entering the United States.

Currently, border crossers need only a photo-ID card, such as a driver's license, and a birth certificate to get into the United States. Neither document would be accepted under the proposed plan.

Instead, the administration wants to require border crossers to show a passport or a cheaper alternative, dubbed a "PASS" card, that is still being designed. But the technology to read the cards and the security standards to make sure they work are not ready.

Vote on Bolton May Be Postponed

A committee vote on extending John R. Bolton's tenure as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations will probably be delayed until after the elections.

A vote "is not scheduled this week," said Andy Fisher, a spokesman for Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. If the Senate finishes its business at the end of this week as scheduled, the panel would consider Bolton's nomination in the "lame-duck session" that will begin in November, Fisher said.

Bolton is serving under a temporary appointment that will expire when the current Congress concludes in January.

House Approves Defense Funding

The House last night easily approved $70 billion more for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Lawmakers passed the amount as part of a record $448 billion budget for the Pentagon in fiscal 2007.

The House passed the Pentagon appropriations bill by a vote of 394 to 22. The Senate is due to act on the measure before adjourning this weekend.

Upon final passage of the bill, Congress will have approved $507 billion for Iraq, Afghanistan and heightened security at overseas military bases since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service.

The bill contains $86 billion for personnel costs, enough to support 482,000 Army soldiers and 175,000 Marines. It would provide for a 2.2 percent pay increase for the military, as President Bush requested in his February budget.

Spending to Be Detailed Online

President Bush said that Americans will now be able to "Google their tax dollars," as he signed into law legislation to create an online database for tracking about $1 trillion in government spending.

The law calls for the Web site to go online by Jan. 1, 2008. It will list federal grants and contracts greater than $25,000, except those classified for national security reasons. The information is already available, but the Web site will make it easier for those who are not experts to see how taxpayer dollars are being spent.

-- From News Services

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