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US Senate Debates Bill to Fund Military Missions in Iraq, Afghanistan


The U.S. Senate continues debate Tuesday on President Bush's request for additional funding for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Majority Democrats have included a provision calling for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq by next March - a measure that Republicans are seeking to strip from the overall bill. VOA's Deborah Tate reports from Capitol Hill.

The legislation includes some $96 billion for continued military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Pentagon says it will run out of money for the two missions next month if Congress does not act on the bill soon.

Senators are expected to pass the legislation this week.

But President Bush has vowed to veto it if it contains the provision calling for a U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq by March of next year - a timetable that Senate Democrats call a goal, not a deadline.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino reiterated the veto threat Monday. "I do know that we would object to timetables for withdrawal," he said.

The Senate's top Republican, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, accused Democrats of trying to micromanage the war by inserting the timetable for a troop withdrawal, and appealed to lawmakers to remove the language from the bill. "I urge my colleagues to put an end to this unfortunate and misguided effort to set an arbitrary date upon which to withdraw from Iraq," he saide.

But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, who opposed President Bush's decision to send more troops to Iraq, says the measure is aimed at sending him a message. "Contrary to what Bush believes, the key to success in Iraq is not to escalate the conflict, providing tens of thousands additional troops to trod down the same, same, dangerous road. It is to find a new way forward," he said.

The Democratic-led House of Representatives has passed its own version of the legislation, with a provision requiring a troop pullout from Iraq by September first of next year.

It is unclear whether the troop withdrawal measure in the Senate bill will survive. The Senate earlier this month voted against Democratic-sponsored resolution to establish a timetable for a troop pullout from Iraq.

The legislation also includes $2 billion to improve mass transit and port security, and billions more for hurricane victims along the U.S. Gulf Coast.

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