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Senate Passes Spending Package

In a key victory for Democrats, the Senate on Thursday gave a veto-proof majority, 75-22, to a massive domestic spending package to be included in the Iraq War supplemental spending bill.

Additionally, the Senate voted, 70-26, to pass nearly $170 billion for war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, the chamber nixed, 34-63, a Senate Democratic package of both war funding and restrictions on war operations, which included provisions designed to ensure that soldiers spend as much time at home as they do deployed in war zones.

Both Democrats and Republicans opposed the package including war restrictions. Republicans balked at the language as binding the president’s hands, while some Democrats wanted to show their distaste for the war funding that was included.

Twenty-five Republicans voted with all Democrats to approve the domestic spending.

Though Republicans had acknowledged Wednesday that they were unlikely to block the domestic package, the vote did not go as Senate GOP leaders planned.

GOP Senators had said that their goal was to muster the 34 votes necessary to sustain the president’s likely veto of the measure. Senate GOP leaders acknowledged that they were surprised by how many Republicans voted for the domestic spending package.

“Once it looked like the dam was about to break, some people changed their votes,” said Senate GOP Conference Vice Chairman John Cornyn (R-Texas).

It remains to be seen whether Senate GOP leaders will attempt to get some of their Members to switch their votes if a veto override comes over to the Senate. The House must vote first on such overrides.

The Democratic spending package, which is about $10 billion more than the president requested, includes tens of billions for new GI bill educational programs for veterans as well as an extension of unemployment benefits. It also includes funding the president requested for hurricane recovery and international food aid, among other things.

If the domestic spending package had not passed, Democrats had planned to hold a stand-alone vote on the GI bill. That plan was scrapped when the larger package prevailed. The bill now heads to the House for its concurrence.

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