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US Senate Approves Funding for Iraq, Afghanistan


The U.S. Senate has given final approval to a funding package for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and for aiding the hurricane-ravaged Gulf coast. The measure, which was approved by the House of Representatives earlier this week, now goes to President Bush for his signature.

The $94.5 billion measure was passed on a 98-1 vote.

Most of the funding, $66 billion, is to go to military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Congressional Research Service says the bill, along with other previous funding measures, brings the total spent on the war in Iraq to $320 billion, and operations in Afghanistan to $89 billion.

Democrats criticized the method President Bush used to request the money, submitting an emergency supplemental measure rather than going through the usual budget process. They argued that it was a way to hide the cost of the increasingly unpopular war in Iraq from the public.

"The Congress has approved eight different emergency supplemental appropriations measures to fund the wars," said Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia, who is the top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee. "Eight! Eight! None of those measures received the full scrutiny that is required of such massive expenditures."

The funding measure is a compromise between bills passed by the House and Senate earlier this year.

Some Democrats complained that key amendments in the Senate bill were dropped during negotiations to reconcile the two bills.

Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Senate's top Democrat, was not happy that among the provisions dropped was one to bolster port security.

"You would think that protecting our ports would be a priority for this Congress given the ongoing threat of terrorism and the grossly inadequate safeguards for our nation's ports," he said.

But Senator Thad Cochran, a Mississippi Republican and chairman of the Appropriations Committee, noted that Senate efforts to increase aid to hurricane-ravaged areas of the Gulf coast prevailed, and said that overall, the bill struck a reasonable balance.

"This conference report, I think, reflects a fair compromise between what we were trying to do in the Senate bill, point out some areas that we thought were under-funded or left out of other requests by the administration for disaster relief, and still deal with the reality that we have to be responsible, and we have to stay within the restraints dictated by good conscience, good government," he noted.

The bill also contains money for preparations for bird flu, U.S. border security, and $20 million for activities to promote democracy in Iran.

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