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House passes war funding bill

By the CNN Wire Staff
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House passes massive war spending bill
  • NEW: The House passes an emergency spending bill to fund the Afghanistan war
  • NEW: The measure now goes to President Barack Obama for his signature
  • The bill authorizes a total of $59 billion in spending, including $33 billion for the war effort
  • The Senate passed the bill last week after eliminating almost $20 billion for domestic programs

Washington (CNN) -- The House of Representatives on Tuesday gave final approval to a nearly $59 billion emergency spending bill, the bulk of which would go toward the U.S. troop buildup in Afghanistan.

Specifically, the bill includes almost $33 billion for Afghanistan, along with over $5 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, almost $3 billion for Haiti relief programs and $68 million for the oil disaster response in the Gulf of Mexico.

It now goes to the president for his signature.

The Senate passed the measure last week after stripping out more than $20 billion for domestic priorities favored by many Democrats.

Top Democrats struggled to maintain support for the bill among more liberal House members, who have increasingly turned against the Afghan war effort and are upset about the loss of funding for programs designed to prevent teacher layoffs, among other things.

Rep. David Obey, D-Wisconsin, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, slammed the Senate for stripping domestic funding from the bill, including funding for teachers and other forms of education funding.

Obey said he opposed the emergency funding bill because of questions over the prospects for success in Afghanistan.

"The Afghan government has not demonstrated the focused determination, reliability and judgment necessary to bring this effort to a rational and successful conclusion," he said.

The federal government has "appropriated over $1 trillion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to date, more than $700 billion to Iraq and $300 billion for Afghanistan," Obey noted.

"To those who say we must pay it because we're going after al Qaeda, I would note that Afghanistan is where al Qaeda used to be," he said. "Today, there are fewer than 100 al Qaeda in Afghanistan, which was publicly confirmed last month by CIA chief (Leon) Panetta. Al Qaeda has relocated to other countries and regions."

Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Massachusetts, called the Afghanistan war policy "deeply flawed."

"Occupying Afghanistan in support of a corrupt and incompetent government will continue to claim the lives of our soldiers," McGovern said. "It will continue to bankrupt us, and it will not enhance our national security. ... It is a mistake to give this administration yet another blank check for this war."

Also Tuesday, the House defeated a non-binding resolution that called for the withdrawal of all U.S. military personnel from Pakistan, which borders Afghanistan. Currently, the United States has more than 200 armed service members in Pakistan.

Fueling liberal discontent with the war effort was Sunday's release by the whistle-blower website WikiLeaks of roughly 76,000 U.S. military and diplomatic reports about Afghanistan filed from 2004 to January 2010.

President Barack Obama said Tuesday that he is "concerned about the disclosure of sensitive information," but insisted the documents don't shed much new light on the war effort. A number of critics, however, insist the documents back their assertion that the war effort is foundering in part due to unreliable allies in the Afghan and Pakistani governments.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, asserted Tuesday that the document leak would not affect the House vote. He noted that funding of U.S. troops in Afghanistan will run out early next month, and said Congress needed to ensure they have the necessary supplies.

"The fact is those troops are there now, and money to fund those troops ... will be depleted as of the seventh of August," Hoyer said. "So whatever we decide on policy in the longer term does not, in my opinion, affect our obligation today to make sure that the troops, as long as they are there, have the resources they need."

CNN's Alan Silverleib, Deirdre Walsh and Craig Broffman contributed to this report