War bill includes Katrina funds

In a stunning vote that illustrated President Bush’s diminished standing, the Senate on Thursday ignored his veto threat and added tens of billions of dollars for veterans and the unemployed to his Iraq war spending bill.

A majority of Republicans broke ranks with Bush on a veto-proof 75-22 vote while adding more than $10 billion for various other domestic programs, including heating subsidies for the poor, wildfire fighting, road and bridge repair, and health research.

The bill also provides billions of dollars for hurricane recovery efforts in Mississippi and Louisiana.

Mississippi’s Republican senators split on the vote. Sen. Roger Wicker was part of the majority vote, while Sen. Thad Cochran cast a “no” vote.

Democrats crowed about their victory Thursday. But the developments meant more confusion about when the must-pass measure might actually become law and what the final version will contain.

Bush has promised to veto the Iraq spending if it exceeds his request. He has enough GOP support in the House to sustain a veto.

But the spectacle of 25 Senate Republicans abandoning the White House and voting to extend jobless benefits by 13 weeks and boost the GI Bill to provide veterans enough money to pay for a four-year education at a public institution made it plain that Bush’s influence is waning.

The House also failed to approve the war money in a vote last week. Republicans unhappy with the Democrats’ add-ons joined with anti-war lawmakers to defeat it.

Because of the differences, it will take weeks to pass a final compromise, which Bush is expected to veto, and then send him one he can sign.

Clarion Ledger