The Senate has approved an $81.3-billion emergency spending measure, with most of the money going for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, but it also includes funds to build a new U.S. embassy complex in Baghdad.
|Cochran supported embassy funding (Senate Appropriations Committee)|
In addition, the package, approved April 21 on a 99-0 vote, provides $1.1 billion for military construction, mostly for overseas projects.
The measure allots $592 million for the Baghdad embassy project, 10% less than the Bush administration requested. The day before the vote on the overall bill, lawmakers turned back an amendment proposed by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who sought to trim the allocation for the embassy to $106 million, which he said was what could be spent on the project over the next two years. Coburn said, "My objection to this bill is it has $19 billion to $20 billion in it that is not emergency."
But Coburn's proposal to cut the embassy funding was tabled, 54-45. The majority sided with Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), who argued for the $592 million, saying the State Dept. supported that amount.
Cochran introduced a April 18 letter he received from R. Nicholas Burns, under secretary of State for political affairs, who made a case for the $592 million. Burns said, "We must begin construction of this compound as soon as possible to improve the safety and security of our U.S. government employees. The current offices and housing in the Palace complex [in Baghdad] are operationally inadequate, as the facilities were never designed as offices and are only marginally usable as an embassy."
The Senate bill now must be reconciled with the version the House passed, which bars spending for the Baghdad embassy project.