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US House Approves Defense Spending Measure

The U.S. House of Representatives Thursday overwhelmingly approved a $460-billion spending bill for the Defense Department, clearing the way for a vote in the Senate. VOA's Dan Robinson reports, the measure does not include funds for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Majority Democrats plan a separate vote as early as Friday on legislation aimed at forcing an Iraq policy change on the White House.

Congress has added about 10 percent more for Pentagon spending than in the 2007 fiscal year, although slightly less than President Bush wanted, with billions for U.S. troops, National Guard and Reserves, money for medical care and pay increases, weapons and other equipment.

What it does not contain is money for the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, which is the subject of a standoff between congressional Democrats and the president this year.

Majority Democrats have been unable to convince enough Republicans to overcome procedural obstacles in the Senate or override presidential vetoes and impose any timetable for withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq. So they are using delaying tactics with the president's separate $196-billion emergency request for Iraq and Afghanistan operations, vowing to pass only portions of it in coming months.

The House is expected do just that as early as Friday by taking up separate legislation providing about $50 billion, or only one quarter of the president's request, for war spending.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters Thursday, the measure will include language stating the Democrats' general goal of withdrawing troops from Iraq by the end of next year, something she asserts Americans want:

"We are re-stating the differentiation between ourselves and the POTUS [President of the United States]," said Nancy Pelosi. "The American people have spoken very clearly about their opposition to the course of action in Iraq. I believe this legislation gives voice to the concerns of the American people, as at the same time strives to meet the needs of our troops.

House Republican leader John Boehner said the Democrats' tactic will hamper military operations.

"The proposal that we are beginning to hear about trying to handcuff our generals and starve our troops in harm's way is ill-advised,": said John Boehner.

This week, House appropriations chairman David Obey vowed again that he will not advance the president's full emergency request for Iraq and Afghanistan in the absence of any change of policy on the part of the president:

"What I would want to see as a policy change would be the establishment or flat out stating that it is now a national goal for us to be out of combat in Iraq by December 2008," said David Obey. "It is hardly a precipitous withdrawal to ask that we be out of there by the end of next year."

The $50-billion "bridge fund" the Democrats propose would pay for about four months of military operations in Iraq.