US House passes war bill

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The US House of Representatives on Thursday approved $96.7b for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Under pressure from Republicans, the legislation also seeks to force President Barack Obamas hand on how to deal with some 240 terrorism suspects after the detention facility at the US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba is closed. The Senate is working on its own version of the legislation and could vote next week. Obama had requested $80m in the bill for closing the controversial prison by early next year, but the request has sparked fierce criticism and bipartisan calls for him to submit a plan on the fate of the prisoners before getting the funds. As a result, the House bill rejected the request and would bar releasing detainees into the US through Sept 30. It further bans moving them to US soil for detention or prosecution until two months after Obama submits a report to Congress that addresses his rationale and assesses the risks of the moves, among other things. Americans are worried that closing Guantanamo by an arbitrary deadline wont keep them as safe as Guantanamo has, said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Democrats shot back that the legislation would not allow for the release of any detainees. I think everyone on this floor agrees that ... anybody who is a terrorist ought not to be released anywhere, House Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said in the debate. Despite the dispute, almost all House Republicans and most Democrats backed the measure because it provides vital war funding through Sept. 30, with the final tally 368-60. Meanwhile, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved its own $91.3b measure for the two wars and included Obamas $80m request to close the prison. Yet, it would bar spending $50m until a month after a plan is submitted. While the Guantanamo prison funds are a tiny part of the legislation, it has proved to be the most controversial. But the fight is not expected to derail the bill, despite its price tag at more than the $84.3b Obama originally requested.

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