Source AP ©

House Minority Leader John Boehner endorses adding funding for border security, foreign aid and State Department operations

The top Republican in the House of Representatives gave $7.4 billion (5.04 billion EUR) in new emergency spending.

House Minority Leader John Boehner endorsed adding funding above Bush's budget for border security, foreign aid and State Department operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and other purposes.

"It all passes the straight-face test," Boehner said. Later, a Boehner spokesman said the top House Republican does not necessarily support the entire bundle of emergency spending.

The emergency funding drew a protest from White House Budget director Jim Nussle on Saturday as he issued a veto threat on a $522 billion (355.7 billion EUR) catchall spending bill.

That measure, under negotiation for weeks, would have cut in half, to $11 billion (7.5 billion EUR), the spending increases sought by Democrats above Bush's request for the agency budgets passed each year by Congress. The $7.4 billion (5 billion EUR) in emergency money - most of which has its strongest support from Republicans - would have brought the total above Bush's budget to $18 billion (12.2 billion EUR).

"Our position has not changed - hold government spending to the president's reasonable and responsible levels and fund our troops in the field," said White House budget office Sean Kevelighan.

After the White House veto threat, House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey, a Democrat, threatened to tear up the omnibus bill to bring it to Bush's budget numbers, but by scalping Republican priorities and killing billions of dollars in lawmakers' hometown projects.

Under budget rules, emergency spending comes on top of budget limits set by Congress to deal with unanticipated events such as natural disasters or unexpected shortfalls in federal programs. In practice, the emergency designation has often been used to skirt budget limits.

The emergency spending package partially endorsed by Boehner totals $7.4 billion (5billion EUR), including:

-$3 billion (2.04 billion EUR) for border security and a fence along the U.S.-Mexico border. The money has virtually unanimous support among Republicans.

-$2.4 billion (1.6 billion EUR) in foreign aid and State Department operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Nussle requested the money last month.

Boehner "supports spending for true emergencies like border security, wildfires and droughts," spokesman Kevin Smith said. "But there may be items designated as emergencies in the Democrats' bill that may be unacceptable to him."

Boehner is a longtime foe of congressional "earmarks," backhome projects sought by lawmakers such as road and bridge projects, economic development initiatives and grants to state and local governments and law enforcement agencies. But he called Obey's plan to kill all earmarks "an idle threat."

"I don't think it's sustainable on his part," Boehner said. "I wonder if he asked the speaker of the House or the majority leader of the House whether they thought that was an appropriate direction to go in since they happen to be the members with the most earmarks in these bills."

In fact, Obey cleared the idea on Monday with the leader of the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat.

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