Friday, September 07, 2007

Senate ups vet money, passes foreign aid bill that restricts cluster bombs, removes "global gag rule"

As part of a $34 billion measure funding foreign aid and U.S. diplomacy which the Senate passed yesterday by a 81-12 vote, provisions were included that forbid the transfer or sale of any cluster munitions with a failure rate of more than 1 percent that are responsible for many civilian deaths in war and also restrictions were lifted on family planning aid to overseas health organizations that perform abortions or promote the procedure as a method of family planning. The restrictions are from a Reagan-era executive order know as the "global gag rule" that was lifted by President Clinton only to reinstated by President Bush. Companion legislation passed the House in June, and the measure now heads to House-Senate negotiations over a final version. President Bush has threatened a veto, but the bill passed with a veto-proof majority.

Earlier Thursday, the Senate approved the Veterans Affairs Department's budget bill by a 92-1 vote with increases for medical care for veterans and construction at military bases. The bill rewards the VA with an almost 10 percent budget increase of $3.2 billion for its health care accounts next year, on top of $1.3 billion added for health care to the Iraq funding bill passed in May. Even though it breaks his budget by $4 billion, the White House has said President Bush will sign the bill as his earlier veto threat is unsustainable with the overwhelming margin of support.

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