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US House of Representatives Approves New Iraq War Funding Measure


In the latest challenge by Democrats to President Bush over funding for the war in Iraq, the House of Representatives has approved a new bill by a vote 221 to 205 to fund military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. VOA's Dan Robinson reports the legislation only provides about half of what is required, and the president has vowed to veto it saying Congress must provide full funding for the military.

The Democratic-crafted bill comes in the wake of President Bush's veto of a previous measure approved by the House and Senate that would have established a timeline for withdrawing troops from Iraq.

The new bill provides about $43 billion for U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, including funds to train Iraqi and Afghan security forces.

But only through July.

Congress would take another vote, after a required report by the president on the situation in Iraq, on whether to release nearly $53 billion more to maintain operations through September.

Democratic leaders also brought a separate measure to the floor calling for withdrawal of U.S. combat forces, and military contractors, within nine months.

Aimed at placating the most vocal war critics in the party, it was defeated in a 255 to 171 vote.

On the House floor, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Democrat's legislation is aimed at a responsible withdrawal of U.S. forces while demanding accountability of the Iraqi government and President Bush.

"He has grown accustomed to a free hand on Iraq that he had before January 4th [when Democrats took control of Congress]. Those days are over. The American people have made it clear that they want a new direction in Iraq, one that is going to bring this war to an end," she said.

Earlier, David Dreier, a California Republican, referred to President Bush's veto of a previous Democrat-crafted measure that contained a timeline for withdrawal of troops, and renewed charges that Democrats are engaging in a "political charade":

"Funding our troops who are in harm's way is not a game. These votes may make my friends on the other side of the aisle feel good, but they are not doing anything to get our troops what they need to protect themselves and to fight effectively against terrorists around the world," he said.

Chances are slim for approval of the legislation in the Senate, where Democrats hold a slim majority.

In remarks at the Pentagon Thursday, President Bush rejected the legislation in advance as haphazard and piecemeal, saying Congress must send him legislation providing full funding for the military.

"My message to the members of Congress is, whatever your belief may be, let's make sure our troops get funded and let's make sure politicians don't tell our commanders how to conduct operations, let's [not] hamstring our people in the field," he said.

The president says he agrees that requiring the Iraqi government to meet specific political and economic benchmarks makes sense, adding that his chief of staff will be working with lawmakers to find common ground on that issue.

Speaker Pelosi said on the House floor late Thursday she hopes something comes of those discussions, but added Democrats intend to stand their ground saying benchmarks without consequences are meaningless.

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