Congress OKs $40 Billion Aid, Use of Force


.c The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (Sept. 15) - An angry and sorrowful Congress gave President Bush $40 billion without hesitation to help rebuild from this week's terrorist attacks, and then told him to unleash the armed forces on whomever sponsored, helped or harbored the people responsible.

''There is something about America that these thugs don't understand, but they will understand when we complete our mission,'' said Rep. Allen Boyd, D-Fla.

With little dissent Friday, the House and Senate lined up squarely behind Bush in what is expected to be a full military response to the suicide airplane attacks on New York City's World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Lawmakers hoped their speed and solidarity would signal the nation's resolve.

''I am gratified that the Congress has united so powerfully by taking this action,'' Bush said after the votes. ''It sends a clear message - our people are together and we will prevail.''

In addition, Congress doubled the president's original request for disaster relief, with the sheer size of the emergency bill spotlighting the magnitude of Tuesday's devastation and the looming costs of cleaning up, helping victims or their survivors, reinforcing domestic security and striking back.

The final package was two-thirds what it cost to wage the 1991 Persian Gulf War, and yet it was seen by most as just the beginning. ''I would not be at all surprised if we had to revisit many of these issues in the coming days and weeks. But we needed to get started,'' Senate Majority Leader Thomas Daschle, D-S.D.

The spending measure was approved 96-0 by the Senate and 422-0 by the House, which extended its roll call so members could attend a memorial service at the National Cathedral. The Senate then passed the resolution authorizing the use of military force was approved 98-0, followed by the House, 420-1.

The lone ''no'' vote came from Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., who asked her colleagues to ''think through the implications of our action today so that it does not spiral out of control.''

But her voice was drowned out in an evening that saw one lawmaker after another hurl condemnations at the terrorists and their supporters, and vow that the United States would retaliate to prevent it from ever happening again.

''The charred rubble and thousands of dead Americans lying just blocks from my office in Manhattan, and hundreds more a stone's throw from this very building, demonstrate we have no choice,'' said Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., whose district includes the toppled World Trade Center towers. ''We must wage the war that has been thrust upon us.''

But while they were almost unanimous publicly, the two parties - and the two branches of government - bickered behind the scenes until reaching the final versions of both bills.

After midnight, leaders dropped an effort to push abruptly written legislation through the House providing $2.5 billion in cash, up to $12.5 billion in guaranteed loans and other help to the airline industry, which faces potentially staggering losses from the after effects of Tuesday's mayhem.

Bush will be able to spend half the $40 billion package with virtually no congressional restrictions. But lawmakers demanded that at least half the money be used for recovery and assistance efforts and go mostly to New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania, site of the crash of the fourth hijacked plane.

Bush, who visited the World Trade Center wreckage Friday, was expected to sign the bill quickly. The $40 billion will come from projected budget surpluses, most of it probably from funds designated for Social Security.

The president, who wanted the use of force resolution to demonstrate public support for hitting back, was looking for more unfettered authority on the use of force.

Lawmakers, however, wanted more specificity after thinking back to their granting of almost unlimited authority to President Johnson before the Vietnam War. This time, lawmakers said, they would give Bush specific authority on what he could and could not do.

The resolution restricts Congress' support to action against ''nations, organizations or persons'' who ''planned, authorized, committed or aided'' Tuesday's assaults or harbored the perpetrators. The measure also reaffirms the War Powers Act's requirement that Congress give its approval if Bush wants to escalate the U.S. action to a declaration of war.

AP-NY-09-15-01 0231EDT


Back to September 11 Main Page