By Jeremy Pelofsky
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A $100 billion bill to fund U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is rapidly accumulating extra items such as money for military aircraft the Pentagon doesn't want and possibly a scheme to jump-start sagging auto sales.
The cars and planes are not directly linked to the U.S. war effort. But they are typical of Congress' penchant for loading bills with unrelated spending in hopes the funds will sail through on the strength of the main legislation.
President Barack Obama originally sought $83.4 billion for the two wars and more foreign aid for countries like Pakistan.
But then he too sought more -- $4 billion extra to combat H1N1 swine flu and $5 billion to back credit lines to the International Monetary Fund, which is trying to help developing countries weather the global economic downturn.
The unrelated provisions have slowed the bill down, especially for the IMF because Republicans have argued the extra items should be vetted through the normal congressional process rather than jammed into an emergency spending bill.
Fights have also erupted about add-ons for the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and an attempt to bar the release of photos of detainee abuse. While Republicans do not have the votes to block the bill, they have said they will oppose it and that forces Democrats to ensure most of their members back it.
"This supplemental was supposed to be about providing funding for our troops," one House Republican aide said. Instead, it has become a mish-mashed, taxpayer funded 'Christmas tree' bill that will propagate bad policies and unnecessary spending."