WASHINGTON - Congress on Wednesday completed work on a $29.4-billion measure to finance domestic security programs next year, sending President Bush the first spending bill to cover the Homeland Security Department.
The House also approved a $368-billion measure covering Pentagon spending other than for the war in Iraq. The Senate was likely to follow suit today so Bush can sign the bills into law before the 2004 budget year begins Oct. 1.
Both measures passed with little opposition, although House Democrats said the Homeland Security bill did not go far enough to ensure the safety of cargo on passenger planes.
The House and Senate also passed a $3.54-billion bill to run Congress and its offices. Attached to the measure was $937-million in emergency spending for this budget year to help victims of natural disasters.
The three bills would be the first spending bills this year to reach the president's desk. Congress every year must pass 13 spending bills to fund programs for the new fiscal year.
The Homeland Security bill, passed 417-8 in the House and by voice in the Senate, is the first for the department formed in the spring by combining 22 security-related agencies. The money, $1-billion above what Bush requested, includes $4.2-billion for first-responder programs, $9-billion for border protection and $5.2-billion for the Transportation Security Agency and the Federal Air Marshal Program.
At the White House, Bush celebrated the passage of the bill, which he said he looked forward to signing. "To win the war on terrorism, we are staying on the offensive abroad and protecting Americans at home," he said. "These funds will help make Americans and their families even safer."