By a vote of 99-0, the Senate passed the emergency spending bill on Thursday that also funds some new domestic security measures, including the hiring of additional border agents.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran, a Mississippi Republican, said the bill would "continue to support the additional funding that's needed for this fiscal year for our troops in the field, for those who are deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere in the world".

 

The fiscal year ends at the end of September.

 

Last month, the House of Representatives passed its own measure to speed delivery of funds President George Bush is seeking for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The two chambers will try to work out their differences quickly and send the legislation to Bush for signing.

US embassy

 

One major area of disagreement is over the administration's plans to build a new embassy in Baghdad. The House deleted money for the construction project, largely due to concerns about record US budget deficits.

Funding for US troops in Iraq and
Afghanistan is to be increased

The Senate has included $592 million for the project, which would be the largest US embassy in the world.

There are also differences over immigration reform, including new hurdles for foreigners seeking asylum and prohibitions on driver's licences for illegal aliens which were embraced by the House.

The Senate sidestepped a broad immigration reform debate but did approve an amendment to temporarily lift the cap on foreign workers doing seasonal work in low-paying US jobs.

Timely delivery

 

Pentagon planners say they need an infusion of about $75 billion by next month to ensure the timely delivery of combat materials, including weapons, medical supplies and body armour.

The bill provides $213 million for
more armoured Humvees

The legislation also provides bigger death benefits to families of soldiers killed in combat.

Once the spending bill is enacted, the running tally on Iraq and Afghanistan war costs for the United States would rise to nearly $300 billion, with about two-thirds of that total dedicated to the fighting in Iraq.

Before passing the bill, senators agreed to add $213 million to buy more armour-protected Humvee military vehicles up to the end of this year.

Late last year, the Pentagon scurried to procure more armoured Humvees after Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld heard soldiers in Iraq complain they had to forage for scrap metal to protect their vehicles from attacks.

The House bill contains $185 million in added funding for Humvees.

Tsunami slice

 

The Bush administration has not provided Congress with long-term estimates of Iraq war costs, which has rankled some lawmakers.

 

The Senate has urged the White
House to better estimate costs

The Senate used the emergency spending bill to call on the White House to do a better job of estimating those costs in upcoming budget documents.

Related to December's Indian Ocean tsunami, the Senate provided about $907 million in additional funding, slightly below Bush's request.

The money would be used to reimburse the US military for some of its emergency relief efforts and to provide about $656 million for a tsunami recovery and reconstruction fund, as well as money for improving a US early warning system for detecting tsunamis.