Congress late last night passed an appropriations bill aimed at funding the war in Iraq. Money for an animal-disease lab in Iowa has been the sticking-point that held up the bill this week, as critics said lawmakers had agreed not to load unrelated projects onto the bill. Iowa congressman Tom Latham, while criticizing the tactic, defended the money as necessary and justifiable within the war-effort context, and fought to keep it in as house-senate conference committee finalized the bill as midnight approached. Latham says he got the Ames animal disease center funded “at the proper level,” 110-million dollars. Iowa’s senators were not the first to add items to the bill — others included dam repair in Vermont and organic salmon labeling in Alaska, but both senators were adamant that unlike typical “Christmas-tree” additions to spending bills, Iowa’s animal-disease lab was a genuine counter-terrorism priority. Latham goes further, saying it needed more money. Latham says he’s been concerned all along that 98-million dollars, the funding added in the senate, wouldn’t be enough for the lab, and says he increased the funding to 110-million, which will keep it “on track.” Latham says the funding’s been secured, and he looks forward to seeing the rebuilding of the Ames lab completed. The project’s been a priority of the USDA for years, and the Bush administration had supported funding the disease-lab renovation, but money to do that was taken out of homeland security funding this year, prompting Iowa’s senators to launch a bipartisan effort to put it back.
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