Custom Search

Friday, June 20, 2008

US Congress Passes $162 Billion War-Funding Bill on Thursday With No Time Tables

President Bush praised Congress yesterday for their bipartisan cooperation on the war funding and on the domestic surveillance (FISA) bill. Congress passed the war funding bill Thursday, which included no time tables for withdrawal from Iraq.
The Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, which is now known as the Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2008 (the war supplemental), passed the US Congress on Thursday, June 19, 2008, with a vote of 268 to 155.

This bill provides $162 billion in war funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with no time lines for withdrawal.

This bill will also include the funds needed to for troops to attend public Universities which was a proposal made by Senator Jim Webb (D-Va.).

President Bush praised Congress and called this a "responsible" bill that provides vital resources to the troops on the front line. He continues on to say, "This legislation gives our troops the funds they need to prevail without tying the hands of our commanders in the field or imposing artificial timetables for withdrawal."

The bill will sent to the Senate to be voted on, which is expected to be within the week.

The Office of the majority leader, Steny Hoyer, also announced yesterday on his website that after months of negotiations, a compromise Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) agreement had been reached.

Negotiations were conducted by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Minority Whip Roy Blunt along with the top members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Kit Bond (R-MO).

The bill is called the FISA Amendments Act, H.R. 6304 and the text of the bill can be read here (114 page PDF file- from Politico)

The key sticking point in the FISA bill had been the issue of Telecom immunity for the telecommunications service providers that provided the Bush administration with data that they requested.

That issue is detailed in Title II, Protections for Electronic Communication Providers, which states:

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a civil action may not lie or be maintained in a Federal or State court against any person for providing assistance to an element of the intelligence community, and shall be promptly dismissed, if the Attorney General certifies to the district court of the United States in which such action is pending that…the assistance alleged to have been provided by the electronic communication service provider was in connection with an intelligence activity involving communications that was authorized by the President during the period beginning on September 11, 2001, and ending on January 17, 2007.

In the joint statement announcing the compromise bill, Steny Hoyer, stated, "This bipartisan bill balances the needs of our intelligence community with Americans’ civil liberties, and provides critical new oversight and accountability requirements. “It is the result of compromise, and like any compromise is not perfect, but I believe it strikes a sound balance. Furthermore, we have ensured that Congress can revisit these issues because the legislation will sunset at the end of 2012.”

Roy Blunt also said in that same joint statement that "For months, leaders of both parties in both the House and the Senate have been working to find middle ground on FISA. Both sides have had to compromise – coming up with a legislative proposal that we individually would have written much differently. Clearly, House Republicans have long believed that the Senate FISA bill was the best way forward – and do not believe that the courts should hold the ultimate decision over how and when terrorist communications are monitored overseas. During this process, we all worked from the very basic premise that we had to find a way to modernize FISA to ensure that our intelligence community has the tools it needs to continue monitoring foreign-based, terrorist communications, while maintaining the protections of individual liberties contained in the existing FISA law. I believe we have accomplished that in this bill.”

You can read both Rockefeller and Bond's statements as well at the Majority Leader's website, here.

The FISA vote on this compromise deal comes up for a vote in the US Congress today.

[Update] FISA passed the House as well with a vote of 293 to 129 and will be sent to the Senate who had already approved one version that gave the telecoms immunity so it is expected to pass the Senate as well very easily and the President has already signaled that he would sign this compromise bill.