White House eyes H1N1 funds

2009-06-03 08:05

Washington - The White House on Tuesday night asked Congress for $2bn to help prepare for a possible H1N1 flu pandemic - a request that came on top of up to $2bn already pending in House-Senate talks on a huge war funding bill.

President Barack Obama also sent lawmakers a request for $200m in humanitarian aid to Pakistan, where 2.5 million people have been displaced from their homes, in large part because of the government's campaign against insurgents.

The requests, if granted, would likely bring the cost of Obama's funding bill for military and diplomatic efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan to more than $100bn.

Republicans in the House are lining up to oppose the war-funding bill if Democrats insist on including in it a new line of credit for the International Monetary Fund.

Democrats may have to scramble to pass the bill in the House, where Republican votes are likely to be needed to make up for about 50 anti-war liberal Democrats who opposed it last month.

At the core of the tentatively priced $98.8bn House-Senate measure is $79.9bn for the Pentagon, a figure that's also rankling House Republicans since it represents an almost $5bn cut from the version that passed the House last month. That measure did not include funding for the IMF.

Responding to media reports that House Democratic negotiators have agreed to include a new $100bn line of credit to the IMF - a top priority of President Barack Obama - the top Republican in the House said on Tuesday he would oppose the bill.

"Let's be clear: a troop-funding bill should fund our troops, period," said Minority Leader John Boehner, a Republican from Ohio. "Weighing down this critical legislation with non-defence spending will only drag this process out further and cost it essential Republican support needed for passage."

Obama promised the IMF money at April's G-20 summit to help developing countries deal with the troubled global economy. About $8bn for an earlier commitment for the IMF will be included.