House Bill Sets End Date for Iraq
BILL WOLFF (Announcer): This is NPR.
RACHEL MARTIN, host:
Hey, good morning everyone.
House Democrats pushed through a $50 billion bill for the Iraq war last night that would force President Bush to start bringing U.S. troops home immediately and put an end to all combat in Iraq by December 2008.
The legislation passed by a vote of 218 to 203. It was mostly a symbolic jab at Bush who has already begun reducing troop levels but has refused to set a timetable for a complete withdrawal. The bill is unlikely to pass a Senate vote and even if it did, the White House has pledged to veto it. Similar legislation has passed repeatedly along party lines in the House, only to sink in the Senate where Democrats hold a razor-thin majority.
And in Iraq, Iraq is making some money decisions of its own. According to a report in the New York Times, the country will spend an unprecedented $19 billion on capital projects in 2008. The announcement came after the Iraqi government reached a deal on a $40 billion budget for next year including capital and operating costs. Nine hundred million dollars will go to Baghdad alone and the city would get more - even though the city will get more money than ever for capital projects, it's unclear if it will actually be able to spend it.
U.S. officials say Iraq's government has only been able to spend about 60 percent of the money it was allocated for 2007 because of security problems, lack of expertise and contracting projects and inexperience in delegating tasks.
Finally: The State Department's top investigator Howard Krongard has had to step away from all things related to Blackwater USA after finding out that his brother has ties to the private security company. The revelation came yesterday while Krongard was in front of a House Oversight Committee defending himself against allegations that he impeded investigations including one into Blackwater.
During the hearing, a Maryland Democrat asked him if he knew his brother was a Blackwater advisory board member attending a conference in Virginia this week. First, Krongard said that was completely untrue. But then he called his brother during a break and later had this to say.
Mr. HOWARD KRONGARD (Investigator, U.S. State Department): I learned that he had been at the advisory board meeting yesterday. I had not been aware of that and I want to state on the record right now that I hereby recuse myself from any matters having to do with Blackwater.
MARTIN: The House Committee is looking into allegations by current and former officials in Krongard's office that he thwarted investigations into waste, fraud and abuse in Iraq including alleged arm smuggling by Blackwater.
It's one of several serious allegations facing the U.S. security firm. Earlier this week, reports said the FBI has found out - has found that 14 of the 17 Iraqis killed in the September shooting in Baghdad by Blackwater guards were shot without justification.
That's the news, and it's always online at npr.org.
WOLFF: This is NPR.
ALISON STEWART, host:
Lots of Iraq news. I think we're going to talk about that stuff tomorrow.
LUKE BURBANK, host:
I need to recuse myself from the rest of the show. I'm just going to, yeah, back - oh, you come back from the lunch break, like, sorry, guys, I got to take the afternoon off.
MARTIN: If you do it…
STEWART: They're going to have an interesting conversation at Thanksgiving dinner in that family.
MARTIN: Yeah. Right.
STEWART: Rachel Martin, thank you.
MARTIN: You're welcome.