The Senate has passed a $626 billion defense spending bill that conceded to President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Robert Gates on cutting two major programs, but the lawmakers were unable to resist gold-plating others for the folks back home.
Prodded by veto threats from the president, the Senate, like the House, was willing to cut off the Cold War-era F-22 fighter and also to kill the grossly overbudget replacement for the current generation of Marine One presidential helicopters.
The Senate flatly banned the transfer of any Guantanamo Bay inmates to the U.S. mainland for any reason. The House would allow an exception for trial and imprisonment. This means the chances are remote of Obama fulfilling his promise to close the prison by next January.
The bill includes $128 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Defense appropriators like Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., say that won’t be enough and that the president will have to ask Congress for more money next spring. If Obama approves Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s request for up to 40,000 additional troops in Afghanistan, he’ll certainly have to.
In any case, some day next year, surely sooner rather than later, the cumulative costs of the war in Afghanistan, which was supposed to be wrapped up in time for the invasion of Iraq, and the war in Iraq, which was supposed to pay for itself, will exceed $1 trillion. The Senate voted on the eve of the eighth anniversary of the Afghan war.