Senate earmarks billions for flu preparedness

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The Senate on Wednesday voted to approve a bill that calls for $3.8 billion in flu pandemic preparedness funding.

The Department of Defense Appropriations measure also includes $453.5 billion in defense spending and $29 billion for hurricane relief in the Gulf Coast. Before voting on the bill, the Senate agreed to remove a provision allowing drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).

Senators also approved a $602 billion Labor-Health and Human Services Department spending bill. This legislation would increase funding by more than $105 billion over the fiscal year 2005 measure. The increase is largely a result of additional funding for programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.

The House must approve the Senate's resolution removing the ANWR provision from the defense bill for both bills to receive final approval.

Prior to voting for these bills, the Senate approved by a 51-50 vote a budget package that would cut $6.4 billion from Medicare and $4.8 billion from Medicaid.