House approves emergency spending bill
By By Jo Bonner
Last week, Congress passed the emergency spending bill providing $94.5 billion in funding for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, hurricane recovery, avian flu preparedness, and border security.
After several weeks of negotiations, House and Senate conferees were able to reduce the price tag of the Senate's bill by $14 billion, bringing it in line with the president's request and the original version passed by the House.
The House bill totaled $91.9 billion while the bill passed by the Senate was almost $109 billion. In order to reduce the size of the Senate's bill, many items had to be cut or reduced.
One of the projects removed from the bill, I'm pleased to report, would have provided more than $700 million to reroute an existing rail line in the Mississippi/Alabama Gulf Coast region. The CSX rail line was immediately repaired following Hurricane Katrina at the expense of CSX and in its existing location serves the Gulf Coast industries well. Re-routing this privately owned rail line, at this time, would not be a good use of federal dollars.
The purpose of this legislation was strictly to fund defense, military, and hurricane relief priorities, and House conferees assured that H.R. 4939, the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Hurricane Recovery for Fiscal Year 2006, accomplishes that goal.
The emergency spending bill contains key funding for disaster relief based on the lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina. With the 2006 hurricane season already upon us, we must ensure the Gulf Coast region is fully prepared.
It provides $19.8 billion for disaster relief efforts that continue throughout the Gulf Coast with $6 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) Disaster Relief fund to remove debris, reimburse states and localities for infrastructure repairs, and assist individuals and families impacted by last year's hurricanes. There is $235 million to help elementary and secondary school students displaced by last year's hurricanes and $500 million in disaster assistance for farmers, ranchers, and producers.
This bill also provides $2.3 billion to prepare for a potential avian flu pandemic. It also includes $1.9 billion for border security, including $708 million to deploy 6,000 National Guard troops to the border. This funding will serve as immediate assistance to help enforce immigration laws that are already on the books.
To continue funding the Global War on Terror, the supplemental appropriations bill will provide $65.8 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, including $800 million for armored humvees for our troops; nearly $2 billion for the development of countermeasures to prevent Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) attacks on our troops; and $4.5 billion to train and equip Iraqi and Afghani security forces.
This bill ensures that our troops will continue to have the tools they need. We must remain committed to supporting our troops, winning the war on terror, and defending our nation from every threat, both at home and abroad.
House Declares that the U.S. will prevail in Global War on Terror
In addition to providing funding for the Global War on Terror, last Friday the House passed, H.R. 861, a resolution declaring that "the United States will prevail in the Global War on Terror." The vote was 256-153.
H.R. 861 recognizes:
"It is essential to the security of the American people and to world security that the United States, together with its allies, take the battle to the terrorists and to those who provide them assistance."
"It is not in the national security interest of the United States to set an arbitrary date for the withdrawal or redeployment of United States Armed Forces from Iraq."
There is no advantage to fighting this battle here at home-we learned this on September 11th. The threat we face is still very real, but we have made great strides in uprooting terrorism. We must continue to track and eliminate terrorist threats to keep America safe.
Remarkable progress has been made in Iraq since the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Today, Iraq has a democratically elected government; it has completed two nationwide elections and a national constitution referendum with millions of Iraqis joining in the political process. Saddam Hussein has been removed from power and is being tried in an Iraqi court.
Admittedly, the road has not been easy, and many American lives have been lost. Some members took to the House floor to call for the immediate withdrawal of our troops. Abandoning the effort now only allows the terrorists to win and provides them a haven for recruiting and training.
As Speaker Hastert stated on the House floor last week, the men and women of our armed forces "know their sacrifices on foreign shores are keeping the battle against the terrorists out of our cities.
"They know that by going into harms way, they are keeping American freedoms safe. They know they are helping a proud but brutalized people to throw off tyranny and stand tall once again. They know they are liberators not occupiers.
"Our men and women in uniform know all this and they are proud of it. It is time for this House of Representatives to tell the world that we know it too, that we know our cause is right and that we are proud of it." My staff and I work for you. Please call if we can be of service.
Jo Bonner is a U.S. congressman. His column appears weekly.