updated 9/30/2006 3:44:26 AM ET 2006-09-30T07:44:26

Congress worked into early Saturday wrapping up work on legislation focused on national defense, Iraq, terrorism and illegal immigration as Republicans pinned their hopes for keeping control of the House and Senate on making national security the theme of the Nov. 7 election.

  1. Other political news of note
    1. Animated Boehner: 'There's nothing complex about the Keystone Pipeline!'

      House Speaker John Boehner became animated Tuesday over the proposed Keystone Pipeline, castigating the Obama administration for not having approved the project yet.

    2. Budget deficits shrinking but set to grow after 2015
    3. Senate readies another volley on unemployment aid
    4. Obama faces Syria standstill
    5. Fluke files to run in California

The House and Senate both worked post-midnight sessions to finish up bills to set defense policy and improve port security. The Pentagon budget — including $70 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — cleared the Senate earlier as did legislation to build a 700-mile fence along the U.S.-Mexico border and a $34.8 billion homeland security budget.

Legislation to convene military trials to prosecute terror suspects cleared its final hurdle in the House after key votes earlier in the week.

Still, plenty of work was left undone: expiring tax cuts, ethics measures and spending bills to fund the domestic side of the budget ledger.

Wiretapping, energy bills stall
Legislation validating President Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program will have to wait for a postelection lame-duck session colored by election results. So will a bill to open the Outer Continental Shelf to oil and gas rigs.

In the defense budget was stopgap spending to keep agencies open through Nov. 17 if their funding bills haven’t passed. Those include measures funding veterans’ health care, education, health research, anti-crime programs, among many others.

Friday opened with the Senate sending Bush the Pentagon budget by a 100-0 vote. The president signed the legislation the same day.

The bill provides $378 billion for core Pentagon programs, about a 5 percent increase, though slightly less than Bush sought. The $70 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan brings to $507 billion the total spent for Iraq, Afghanistan and other anti-terrorism efforts since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Thursday night, House-Senate negotiators reached agreement on a companion defense policy bill including a 2.2 percent military pay raise and setting policy on weapons spending and research programs considered vital to national security. The House passed the bill Friday by a bipartisan 398-23 vote.

But that defense policy measure hit a last-minute Senate logjam as Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., held up the bill because House-Senate negotiators dropped a Coburn-sponsored provision to analyze the costs effects of lawmakers’ pet projects, called “earmarks,” on Pentagon operations.

Coburn relented after receiving assurances from House and Senate GOP leaders that his earmark proposal would receive a stand-alone vote during the lame duck session.

Homeland security, border fence bills passed
The House on Friday evening overwhelmingly passed, 412-6, a homeland security spending bill containing $1.2 billion to begin construction of fences and other barriers along the U.S.-Mexican border, plus money for jails to detain illegal immigrants and hire 1,500 more border agents. The Senate cleared the bill late Friday by voice vote.

“The war against terror has been given incalculable support thanks to ... legislation to clarify America’s authority to hold and try enemy terrorists,” said House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill. “We have begun the process of securing our national borders and bringing our immigration system back under control.”

Democrats such as Sen. David Obey of Wisconsin countered that Republicans have routinely shot down Democratic efforts to boost funding for homeland security.

“On seven different occasions, (Democrats) have tried to add funding to the president’s budget for homeland security,” Obey said, only to hit resistance from the White House and congressional Republicans.

Late Friday the Senate cleared by a 80-19 vote a bill authorizing but not paying for fences along one-third of the nearly 2,000-mile border with Mexico. The House passed it two weeks ago and the measure has been on the Senate floor off and on for more than a week as the chamber marked time toward adjournment.

The border fence is the single significant accomplishment of what had been an ambitious GOP agenda on immigration. Differences between Senate Republicans favoring a comprehensive bill including a plan to give illegal immigrants already in the United States an eventual chance at citizenship and House conservatives favoring an enforcement-only bill bogged down the bigger effort.

Meanwhile, negotiators finalized a port security bill outlining steps to protect the nation’s 361 ports from what could be catastrophic attacks from chemical, biological or nuclear devices. The bill served as a vehicle to carry legislation to limit Internet gambling. It passed the House 409-2 and a nearly deserted Senate cleared the bill by voice vote as one of the last items of business.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments