Vol. 5 Num 558 Wed. December 21, 2005  

US House passes torture ban, war funding

The US House of Representatives early Monday passed final legislation to ban the torture of detainees and voted to advance the Pentagon $50 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The House passed two separate defence bills, one for funding and one for defence policies, that contained identical measures initially opposed by President George W. Bush requiring the humane treatment of detainees in US custody.

The bills were sent to the Senate for final congressional action before they go to Bush for his signature.

A fight over an unrelated measure tagged on to the defence spending bill that would open up an Alaskan wildlife refuge to oil and gas drilling could delay final Senate action on that bill until later in the week.

The defence policy bill is expected to clear the Senate this week and go to Bush as Congress pushes to complete its work for the year.

In a concession to the White House, the bills curb the ability of inmates at the US prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to challenge their detention in federal court.

The bills also would let information gleaned by coercion to be used against Guantanamo inmates.

"What we do is leave that up to the court if it finds that there's coercion," said Sen. Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat who helped work out a compromise with the White House.

The funding bill provides $453.3 billion for defence, including $50 billion for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq until Congress acts on a separate war supplemental spending bill early next year that lawmakers said could be between $80 billion and $100 billion.

The ban on torture represents a congressional rebuke of Bush, who resisted the measure pushed by Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain.