The Senate has passed an Emergency War Supplemental Spending Bill (H.R. 2642) by a vote of 92 (Y) to 6 (N). The overall bill will provide some $162 billion in funding for war-related activities in Iraq and Afghanistan through the rest of this year and part of 2009. The Senate technically had already passed the war funding portion of the bill earlier this year while this vote focused on the domestic spending provisions.
Those provisions include the initiation of a new GI bill program which is estimated to eventually cost around $52 billion (the Associated Press estimates the 10 year cost at $63 billion). It would provide an essentially free four-year education for returning war veterans to be used at any public state university.
Also included in the package is an extension of unemployment benefits for 13 weeks. The Associated Press estimates the two-year cost of this extension at $12.5 billion. They also note that the extensions are for those whose 26-week benefits have run out. As a concession to President Bush and some Republican members, an individual must work at least 20 weeks at a job before they are eligible to receive any benefits.
Some $2.7 billion in disaster relief funding is also included in the bill along with an estimated $10 billion in foreign aid. Additionally, the bill would include provisions to block 6 out of the 7 newly proposed regulations toward the Medicaid program as offered by President Bush. It was estimated that those regulations would have reduced spending within the program by $10 billion over a five-year period.
The bill would also provide over $460 million in funding toward the Merida Initiative. That initiative is a partnership among the United States, Mexico and various countries throughout Central America to combat gangs and criminal organizations. The initiative places a focus on those involved in drug trafficking.
Notably, before the vote on final passage took place, a motion that the bill violated the Budget Act was waived by a vote of 77 (Y) to 21 (N). That motion was offered by Senator Coburn (R-OK).
Candidate Voting Guide: Senator McCain (R-AZ) did not vote. Senator Obama (D-IL) voted “yes” on both.
Update: This bill has been signed into law.