Senate passes Homeland finance bill

The Senate rejected Democratic efforts to boost antiterrorism spending for big cities yesterday and approved legislation financing the Homeland Security Department next year.

The price tag of the measure grew to about $36 billion as senators bowed to pressure from farm-state lawmakers and added $2.9 billion to help growers and livestock producers - mostly in the Midwest - hurt by drought.

The overall measure was approved by 93-0. The Senate must next work out a compromise with the House, which passed its version of the legislation in June.

The bill provides federal aid for antiterror efforts by local police, fire and emergency-responder departments, as well as to the government's border security, immigration, and other domestic-security programs. Overall, the measure would exceed President Bush's request for such programs by more than $1 billion.

With elections less than two months off, Democrats were hoping the GOP would find it painful to vote against a series of amendments to boost security spending. But for the most part, Republicans fended off such amendments, such as one by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D., N.Y.) to add $625 million to the $875 million in the bill for cities considered at high risk of attacks.

The Senate accepted some amendments. It voted to boost money for firefighters by $100 million, taking the money out of administrative expenses.

The measure is only the second of the 13 annual spending bills for next year that the Senate has approved.