Congress passes $1.1 trillion spending bill
Washington: The US Senate has passed the USD 1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill that eliminates the threat of another government shutdown at least until October and puts conditions on Pakistan for continuation of aid.
Passed by the House of Representatives a day earlier, the bill now goes to the White House for President Barack Obama to sign it into law, thus preventing another shutdown.
While the Senate passed the massive bill by 72-26 votes yesterday, the House approved it by 359-67 votes on Wednesday.
All Senate Democrats supported the spending package and also 17 Republicans voted in its favour.
Obama has pledged to sign the 1500-page bill, which among others puts conditions on Pakistan with regard to continuation of civilian and military aid.
As in the previous year, the Congress requires a certification from the Secretary of State and the Defense Secretary to release the civil and military aid to Pakistan.
The officials require to certify that Pakistan is co-operating with the US in counter-terrorism efforts…And taking steps to end support for terrorist groups and prevent them from basing and operating in Pakistan and carrying out cross border attacks into neighboring countries.
The Secretary of State also requires to certify the Congress that Pakistan is not supporting terrorist activities against US or coalition forces in Afghanistan, and Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies are not intervening extra- judicially into political and judicial processes.
It also seeks certification that Pakistan is dismantling improvised explosive device, networks and interdicting precursor chemicals used in the manufacture of IEDs; preventing the proliferation of nuclear-related material and expertise; and implementing policies to protect judicial independence and due process of law.
However, in the national security interest, these provisions are waived off.
Further, the Congress has also withheld USD 33 million assistance until Pakistan releases Dr Shakil Afridi, who helped the US in locating Osama bin Laden, from prison.
It also seeks from the Obama Administration a spending plan including achievable and sustainable goals, benchmarks for measuring progress, and expected results regarding combating poverty and furthering development in Pakistan, countering extremism, and establishing conditions conducive to the rule of law and transparent and accountable governance.
The Secretary of State is authorised to suspend assistance if Pakistan fails to make measurable progress in meeting such goals or benchmarks, the bill says.
The White House supported the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2014 describing it as a positive step forward for the Nation and the economy.
“This bipartisan legislation provides funding for investments in areas like education, infrastructure and innovation investments that will help grow our economy, create jobs, and strengthen the middle class,” said Sylvia Mathews Burwell, Director of the Office of Management and Budget.