WASHINGTON (AFP) - US President Barack Obama on Wednesday declared war on congressional pet projects known as earmarks that can vastly inflate the price tag of legislation with sometimes wasteful spending. Some of the legislative items slipped - at times surreptitiously - into congressional bills address worthy concerns, but the US President said earmarks often "have been used as a vehicle for waste and fraud and abuse." "Projects have been inserted at the 11th hour without review - and sometimes without merit - in order to satisfy the political or personal agendas of a given legislator, rather than the public interest," he said. Obama said that going forward, his administration will impose strict measures aimed at "reining in waste, abuse and inefficiency - saving the American taxpayers up to 40 billion dollars each year in the process". "Each earmark must be open to scrutiny at public hearings, where members will have to justify their expense to the taxpayer," the US leader said. Late Tuesday, the US Senate passed a 410-billion-dollar package that pays for government operations until October 1 and eases Cold War-inspired restrictions on Cuba. Senators voted 62-35 to end bitter debate on the measure, then approved the legislation by voice vote two weeks after the House of Representatives passed it, sending it to US President Barack Obama for his signature. The bill's chiefly Democratic supporters beat back a series of amendments on a range of issues, including an effort by foes of Cuba's government to block measures seen as lifting pressure on Havana. Obama has said he supports easing travel to the island and cash remittances from relatives working in the United States to loved ones in Cuba, but has resisted calls to lift the entire decade-old US embargo. The budget bill would block enforcement of rules that keep Cuban-Americans from visiting their homeland more than once every three years, allowing them to visit once per year instead. It would also expand the definition of "close relative" to allow Cuban-Americans to visit cousins, nieces, nephews, aunts, and uncles, in addition to parents, grandparents, children and siblings. The bill would allow Cuban-Americans to spend up to 179 dollars per day while in Cuba, and would also ease some restrictions on food and medicine sales to Cuba - but it does not lift the US embargo. The legislation's mostly Republican foes immediately urged Obama to veto what they have repeatedly denounced as a bloated and wasteful bill larded with pet projects rather than genuine recession-fighting measures. "President Obama should veto this bill," House Minority Leader John Boehner said in a statement. "A recession is not an excuse for politicians to spend taxpayers' hard-earned money with reckless abandon. Republicans had also denounced the package's eight-per cent spending increase overall and a multitude of pet projects in the mammoth measure. The measure includes about $20.5b for the US Department of Agriculture, including two billion to help the Food and Drug Administration to improve food security. One clause forbids the department from allowing imports of potentially harmful poultry from China. The US Justice Department would get some $57.7b, including $7.1b for the FBI in a bid to help the bureau hire 280 new agents and 271 analysts. Foreign affairs monies run about $36.6b, including $2.4b for Israel and $1.5b for Egypt. The legislation also includes hundreds of individual pet projects known as "earmarks" that have drawn fire, chiefly from Republicans, with government revenues feeling the pinch of the global financial crisis.