WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama
on Wednesday signed into law a $106 billion measure to fulfill his
plans to wind down the war in Iraq and ramp up operations in
Afghanistan where fighting against militants is intensifying.
The bill contains $79.9 billion to continue funding the two wars
through September 30. It was also loaded up with extras like $7.7
billion to address the H1N1 flu pandemic, and $1.4 billion in foreign aid for Pakistan, which is fighting Taliban militants spilling over the border from Afghanistan.
The measure was nearly derailed by Obama's request for money to
close the controversial U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as well as
for $108 billion in credit lines to back the International Monetary
Fund as it helps countries weather the global economic downturn.
The legislation did not include $80 million Obama wanted for closing
Guantanamo and bans releasing any detainees into the United States
through September 30. But it allows detainees to be brought to U.S.
soil for trial.
Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers demanded the White House
produce a detailed plan before closing the Guantanamo prison camp.
Before the legislation passed, the administration rushed to release or
transfer more than a dozen detainees.
Despite fierce Republican opposition, Obama ultimately prevailed to
include in the legislation provisions to extend a $100 billion credit
line to the IMF and expand the U.S. contribution to the multilateral
lender by $8 billion.
The legislation also endorses the IMF's plan to sell 400 tons (12.97 million ounces) of its gold reserves.
House Republicans had expressed concern the IMF would use the funds to lend to U.S. foes like Iran and Venezuela and argued that the matter should have been considered separately.
With the bill becoming law, Obama can follow through on a commitment
he made with other Group of 20 member nations to add $500 billion to an
IMF emergency fund for countries needing financial aid to avoid
The legislation also will kick off a controversial $1 billion
program to boost depressed U.S. car sales. The measure offers vouchers
of up to $4,500 to consumers who trade in their less fuel-efficient
vehicles for ones that get better mileage.
(Editing by Chris Wilson)