Bush Urges Congress to Fund Wars Before Holiday President Bush met with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Defense Secretary Robert Gates at the Pentagon on Thursday, calling on lawmakers to approve nearly $200 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan before leaving for the holidays.
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Bush Urges Congress to Fund Wars Before Holiday

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Bush Urges Congress to Fund Wars Before Holiday

Bush Urges Congress to Fund Wars Before Holiday

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

President Bush is raising the ante with Congress in the standoff over funding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This afternoon at the Pentagon, the president called on lawmakers to approve nearly $200 billion before leaving for the Christmas holidays. Democratic leaders are not warm to that idea. They say they will approve one-fourth of that amount if the administration agrees to a timetable to withdraw troops from Iraq.

NPR's defense correspondent Guy Raz reports.

GUY RAZ: The president was here ostensively to discuss what the White House described as the long-term needs of the military services. That topic alone could've lasted the entire two hours he met with the Joint Chiefs and the defense secretary, but the president used the occasion to blast Congress.

Earlier this month, the House passed a $50 billion spending bill that would have funded the war in Iraq through next March. But the Senate never voted on the bill. Senate Republicans, under direction from the White House, blocked the measure. And the reason, the bill called for but require a large-scale drawdown of troops from Iraq by the end of 2008. The president said he'd never signed such a bill anyway. So today, once again, he called on Congress to send him what he described as a clean bill.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: Let us tell our men and women in uniform that we will give them what they need to succeed in their missions, without strings and without delay.

RAZ: The president is popular with the military. As he walked down one of the Pentagon's famously long corridors, uniformed men and women shouted and applauded, some snapped pictures. Many of them agree with the president's argument that support for the troops requires unconditional congressional funding for the war.

Pres. BUSH: The American people expect us to work together to support our troops. That's what they want. They do not want the government to create needless uncertainty for those defending our country and uncertainty for their families. They do not want disputes in Washington to undermine our troops in Iraq just as they're seeing clear signs of success.

RAZ: Defense Secretary Robert Gates has already ordered the Army to prepare for major cutbacks. Some members of Congress are skeptical. They point out that the Pentagon already receives about a third of the total federal budget. But Gates says without the additional money, some 100,000 civilians who work at military bases across the country would have to be laid off.

Guy Raz, NPR News, the Pentagon.

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