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The Senate this morning gave its approval to $66 billion in emergency funding to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Despite the fresh infusion of money, both the House and Senate are plunging to charged debates today over what U.S. policy should be in Iraq.
Here's NPR's David Welna.
DAVID WELNA reporting:
At least in public, most Republican lawmakers continue closing ranks behind their president on Iraq. Democrats are far more divided. And, in a Rose Garden news conference yesterday, President Bush made a point of chastising those, such as his recent challenger, Massachusetts Democratic Senator John Kerry, who advocate a pullout of U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of the year.
President GEORGE W. BUSH: There's an interesting debate in the Democrat Party about how quick to pull out of Iraq. Pulling out of Iraq before we accomplish the mission will make the world a more dangerous place. It's bad policy.
WELNA: Bad policy because, according to him, Iraq is part of what he calls the global war on terror. House Intelligence Committee Chair Pete Hoekstra says a resolution fellow House Republicans drafted and planned to hold 10 hours of debate on today is really aimed at educating the American public.
Representative PETER HOEKSTRA (Republican, Michigan): That they will better be able to understand the reasons why we are involved in this global war on terror, and the threats and the risks that we face if we don't fight and win this war.
WELNA: So it's not about Iraq, it's about the global war on terror?
Sen. HOEKSTRA: Absolutely. It's about a global war on terror. It never has been about Iraq.
WELNA: The resolution asserts the United States will prevail in the global war on terror. It also says the U.S. and its allies have scored impressive victories in Iraq, and, most controversially, it declares that quote "it is not in the national security interests of the United States to set an arbitrary date for the withdrawal or redeployment of United States armed forces from Iraq."
Missouri's Ike Skelton, who's the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, says the resolution's real aim is to confer on the war in Iraq the same kind of legitimacy the war in Afghanistan has enjoyed.
Representative IKE SKELTON (Democrat, Missouri): The resolution confuses the war on Iraq and the war on terror. It does not give the American people the real debate that we were promised about our policy in Iraq and how we should move forward.
WELNA: Ron Paul, a conservative Texan, is one of the few House Republicans who's denounced the document drawn up by his colleagues.
Representative RUN PAUL (Republican, Texas): The resolution says we support the status quo, we support the current policy. And there is no desire whatsoever to consider an alternative to this. So it's a political trap that is designed to get everybody to look for this.
WELNA: At the same time, in the Senate, many Democrats seemed to be sprinting away from the amendment John Kerry's offered, calling for a troop pullout from Iraq by year's end. Rhode Island Democrat Jack Reed says his party is drafting an alternative amendment.
Senator JACK REED (Democrat, Rhode Island): We're looking at, once again, reaffirming that this has to be a continuing year of transition. And that the following year, '07, we hope is successful enough in terms of our ability to help the Iraqis in their ability, frankly, to help themselves, that there could be significant reductions, redeployments in our forces.
WELNA: But no date certain?
Sen. REED: Well, I think if not the specific date on the calendar where, you know, everything, everybody's gone, I think it's a sense that, as we did last year, talking about this year, '06, as a critical time, '07 will continue to be that.
WELNA: It's a proposal many Senate Democrats feel safer voting for.
David Welna, NPR News.
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