Politics Digest

Politics Digest: House Passes War Funding Bill

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) met with Democrats who had earlier opposed the bill funding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) met with Democrats who had earlier opposed the bill funding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. (By Brendan Smialowski -- Bloomberg News)
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Wednesday, June 17, 2009


$106 Billion Bill Passes in House

The House passed yesterday a $106 billion bill that funds the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through September, as Democrats backed President Obama despite their misgivings about his strategy in Afghanistan.

The 226 to 202 vote came after Obama and Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner implored some reluctant Democrats during the day to back the bill, and after Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) had strongly pressed her colleagues in a closed-door meeting to vote for the bill. In the end, 221 Democrats voted yes, and 32 voted no.

One of those voting yes was Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), who had earlier said that he opposed the war funding. "We are in the process of wrapping up the wars. The president needed our support. But the substance still sucks," Weiner said.

All but five Republicans opposed the bill after the White House included language to fund a line of credit for the International Monetary Fund. The GOP said that amounted to a "global bailout."

The Senate could pass the war-funding bill later this week, but some senators are threatening to oppose a provision in the bill that provides $1 billion for a "cash for clunkers" program. The House version of that program gives vouchers of as much as $4,500 to people who trade in their old cars and buy new ones with higher fuel efficiency, but a bipartisan group of senators has complained that the new-car efficiency standard in the House plan is not strict enough.

Along with the car program and the IMF funding, the spending bill also provides $7.7 billion to fund U.S. efforts to combat an outbreak of pandemic flu. But Congress stripped out $80 million the administration had asked for to start the process of closing the detainee facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. And lawmakers added a requirement that the administration produce a report detailing American policy goals and benchmarks for success in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The vote was complicated because a group of 51 Democrats, most of whom have long pressed for complete withdrawal of U.S. troops in Iraq and reduced presence in Afghanistan, voted against the first version of the war spending bill in May. But most Republicans backed it, easing its passage.

This time around, with minimal Republican support in the offing, Democrats needed to get more than a dozen of the 51 to back the funding, setting up a battle between the White House and the antiwar left.

-- Perry Bacon Jr.


Unmarried, Same-Sex Partners to Be Covered

President Obama will announce today that he is extending federal benefits to include unmarried domestic partners of federal workers, including same-sex partners, White House officials said last night.

Obama will sign an executive order implementing the change, the officials said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to avoid upstaging the president's announcement. The move would give partners of federal employees access to health care and financial benefits such as relocation fees for moves.

The State Department announced a similar extension of benefits last month, with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton calling it "the right thing to do."

The action will come as welcome news to gay-rights activists, who have voiced loud disappointment with Obama's handling of several issues important to their community.

Obama has signaled his opposition to same-sex marriage, saying that he instead supports civil unions for gay men and lesbians.

Most recently, the Justice Department argued in court that the Defense of Marriage Act, which denies federal benefits to same-sex married couples, should be upheld. Gay-rights groups were infuriated by the administration's comparison of same-sex marriage to marriages between cousins or underage spouses.

The administration's reluctance to reconsider the U.S. military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gay service members -- after Obama promised during the campaign to repeal it -- has also been a sore point among these activists.

The order Obama intends to sign today would apply to the Defense Department's civilian workforce but not to the Pentagon's men and women in uniform.

-- From Staff and Wire Reports

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