Thursday, December 17, 2009

Afghanistan, Iraq War Funding by US Imperialism Approved by Congress

December 17, 2009

Afghan, Iraq war funding approved

House passes $636B defense bill, raises U.S. borrowing limit

New York Times

Washington -- In a rare show of bipartisanship Wednesday, the House easily approved a $636 billion Pentagon spending measure, and narrowly approved a short-term, $290 billion increase in federal borrowing power, setting the stage for a major fight over national fiscal policy in 2010.

The Pentagon measure, which passed on a vote of 395-34, pays for continuing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. It also included short extensions of the USA Patriot Act, the anti-terrorism legislation enacted after Sept. 11, and several other expiring laws and programs as well as two more months in jobless pay and health care for the unemployed.

The interlude of legislative cooperation was brief.

Members of the House and Senate failed to come to terms on extending the federal estate tax, which is scheduled to be repealed entirely for 2010 before being reinstated at a lower threshold in 2011. Lawmakers hope to work out a more orderly transition when they return in January.

In what House members hope was their last significant vote of an eventful year, a $174 billion measure intended to create jobs was approved on a surprisingly close party-line vote of 217-212. The measure would redirect $75 billion from the Wall Street bailout fund to a variety of construction and employment programs, but no similar measure is expected to be considered in the Senate until next year.

Lawmakers quickly returned to partisan sniping before voting 218-214 to raise the federal debt limit, with each party blaming the other for running up the national debt over the last decade. Both the debt increase and the Pentagon measure must still be approved by the Senate, which is locked in its health care debate.

The Treasury Department had sought the debt increase, saying the federal government was in danger of exceeding the legal debt limit of $12.1 trillion by Dec. 31, putting it in jeopardy of defaulting and threatening its ability to operate.

Republicans said the need to increase the debt reflected excessive Democratic spending and called on Congress to reduce spending instead. "Give the gift that America deserves, a responsible federal budget," said Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nev. "Merry Christmas to everyone."

Democrats countered that Republicans presided over deficit spending during most of the decade as the federal government turned a surplus at the end of the Clinton administration into a deficit under President George W. Bush. They said Republicans recklessly cut taxes while adding the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to the deficit.

Surveillance to increase

The U.S. military is adding more drones and expanding its video surveillance in the skies over Afghanistan to meet the needs of American forces as 30,000 more troops head into the war zone, a top Air Force general said Wednesday. The bolstered eyes in the sky will come from a mix of manned and unmanned aircraft and added technology that allows each MQ-9 Reaper drone to collect 10 video transmissions and beam them back to 10 different users on the ground, Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula told reporters.

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