House, Senate Approve Iraq War-Funds Bill

Congress has approved emergency legislation containing $100 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The measure passed, despite widespread opposition in the Democratic majority. It omits the provision for a U.S. troop withdrawal timeline, which prompted an earlier presidential veto.

The House of Representatives adopted the bill by a vote of 280-142; the Senate tally was 80-14.

Congress Approves Iraq War-Funds Bill

Congress on Thursday approved a $120 billion bill to fund the troops in Iraq through September without setting a timeline for withdrawal. It is a major victory for President Bush, whose handling of the war has been severely criticized.

The measure includes the nearly $100 billion that the president requested for military and diplomatic operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and it sets benchmarks for political progress for the Iraqi government to meet. However, it also allows the president to waive sanctions if the Iraqis do not meet the benchmarks.

In addition, the legislation requires progress reports on Iraq, along with independent evaluations of the situation there. The Senate is expected to give its approval of the bill this week.

At a White House press conference, President Bush said his administration had many meetings with Congressional leaders from both parties in order to work out the compromise. The president vetoed earlier legislation that had included the scheduled withdrawal that Democrats had pushed.

"By voting for this bill, members of both parties can show our troops and the Iraqis and the enemy that our country will support our servicemen and women in harm's way," the president said.

The compromise bill includes some concessions for Democrats. There is an additional $17 billion for domestic programs that includes $6.4 billion in hurricane relief and $3 billion in agricultural assistance.

President Bush said he was successful in cutting billions in domestic spending from the measure, but he acknowledged that the bill still includes more money for additional programs than he would have liked.

The much-debated Iraq war funding issue should be settled by the end of the week, as the Senate passed the measure just hours after the House vote. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) had promised the bill would be on the president's desk by the end of the week.

Republicans were unhappy about the additional domestic spending included in the House bill, but many said they were relieved the final measure did not set a timetable for troop withdrawal.

"We cannot and will not abandon the Iraqis to be butchered by these terrorists in their midst," said Rep. David Dreier (R-CA). "And we cannot and will not abandon our mission just as real progress is starting to be made."

Many Democrats were not happy, either.

"I hate this agreement," said Rep. David Obey (D-WI), who heads the Appropriations Committee. But he said it was the best deal that Democrats could manage because "the White House is in a cloud somewhere in terms of understanding the realities in Iraq."

Despite the influx of funds to support the surge in troops, President Bush acknowledged that August could be a "bloody" month, during which Americans should be prepared for the deaths of U.S. troops and Iraqis. But, he said, the additional money was necessary to help secure Iraq.

So far, more than 3,400 U.S. troops have been killed, and the price tag has risen to more than $300 billion.



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