Congress passes $40 billion to fight terrorism
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON - White House officials and congressional leaders agreed early Friday
to final details of a $40 billion package to combat terrorism and recover from
attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The figure was double what
President Bush requested.
Determined to show a united front, lawmakers also seemed to be near agreement
on a separate measure that would back the use of "necessary and appropriate
force" by President Bush against the people responsible for Tuesday's attacks.
House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., said the House could consider that bill
as early as Friday.
Hastert said the two sides agreed to drop earlier language opposed by some
lawmakers that would also have approved use of force by Bush to "deter
and pre-empt any related future acts of terrorism or aggressions against the
United States." Opponents said that would have gone too far in eliminating
Congress' role in future incidents.
Leaders hope to push the spending measure through the House as early as today,
with the Senate to follow. A Saturday session of Congress was looking increasingly
At a Capitol meeting that ran past midnight Thursday, top lawmakers and White
House officials agreed that half the package would be available virtually immediately,
and half after details are spelled out in subsequent legislation. Administration
officials had hoped Congress would approve the measure in time for Bush to tout
it when he visits New York on Friday.
Even so, approval of such a vast sum just days after Tuesday's calamitous events
would be lightning speed for a Congress that usually takes weeks or months to
approve money for anything.
"We are shoulder to shoulder. We are in complete agreement that we will
act together as one," said House Democratic Leader Dick Gephardt of Missouri.
Earlier, Hastert had said that Bush agreed to sign the $40 billion measure
after meeting at the White House with New York lawmakers.
"There is a unanimous understanding that whatever we do this week is a
very minimal down payment to what will be required and what we will do in the
days and weeks ahead," said Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D.
The spending agreement was worked out late in the afternoon, minutes before
the Capital was evacuated for about a half hour after bomb-sniffing dogs detected
a suspicious odor in a Senate office.
Lawmakers from New York- where the brunt of the casualties and damage occurred
when the World Trade Center was obliterated- sought a commitment Thursday from
Bush for $20 billion to aid the state's recovery.
Instead, the bill's final version would require that at least half the $40
billion aid victims and their families, and pay for recovery efforts. That money
would most likely be spent in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania, where Tuesday's
fourth hijacked airliner crashed.
In a day marked by several bipartisan meetings- unusual in themselves- Democratic
and Republic leaders traveled together across the Potomac River to view rescue
and recovery efforts at the Pentagon.
In broadly worded language, the $40 billion would go to attack victims; costs
by the federal and local governments for the rescue, cleanup and rebuilding
efforts; and improved security for transportation systems.
It could also be used "to counter, investigate or prosecute domestic or
international terrorism" and for "supporting national security"-
which could give Bush wide leeway to use funds to strike back at terrorists
and their supporters.
Both parties also seemed eager to approve separate legislation endorsing a
presidential use of force against those responsible for the attacks.
"It is always wiser to demonstrate national unity" by showing Congress
supports such action, said Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph
Participants said completion of that bill could slip to next week, complicated
by the age-old jealously between the two branches of government over the power
to wage war.
In 1964, Congress approved the Gulf of Tonkin resolution authorizing President
Johnson "to take all necessary measures" to protect U.S. forces and
prevent aggression. Johnson and subsequent presidents used that resolution to
wage the Vietnam War, to the subsequent regret of many lawmakers.
The Constitution gives the president, as a commander in chief, authority to
wage war while leaving Congress the power to declare war.