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US Congress, Bush in New Iraq Spending Fight


Democrats and President Bush are headed for another confrontation over Iraq war policy. VOA's Dan Robinson on Capitol Hill reports, the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives and the Senate are expected to vote on a measure linking some of what the president wants to sustain military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, with new pressure to bring a withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq next year.

Democrats plan to bring to the floor of the House a measure that would give the president a bridge fund for military operations of about $50 billion of the $196 billion he sought earlier this year.

It would require President Bush to begin redeploying U.S. forces from Iraq within 30 days, with a goal of pulling most combat troops out by December 15, 2008, and would restrict the U.S. military mission to force protection, counter-terrorism and training of Iraqi security forces.

The president has consistently rejected attempts by the Democratic-controlled Congress to attach language calling for any kind of timetable, whether mandatory or qualified as a goal.

For that reason, Democrats may ultimately be forced to remove the provision. However, in a Tuesday news conference, Democrats underscored their determination to make another stand on Iraq policy.

"House Democrats plan to send the president a smaller supplemental funding request for the war, with a bigger message: start bringing our troops home now," said New York Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney.

Senate majority leader Harry Reid says he hopes to bring the measure up for a vote in the Senate as quickly as possible after House passage, adding he hopes the withdrawal language remains in the bill. "I would hope that Republicans in the Senate will democratically allow us to move forward. If they don't, it is not us taking away the bridge fund, it is they [who are] taking away the bridge fund [temporary fund]," he said.

House Democratic leader Steny Hoyer made this direct appeal to Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, urging him not to block the measure. "We would very sincerely hope that Senator McConnell and the Republicans in the U.S. Senate would allow the will of the American people to be refected on the floor of the U.S. Senate."

For his part, Senator McConnell made clear to reporters later that Republicans have no intention of going along with the Democratic effort, saying he will use Senate procedures to push for a clean bill for military operations.

In arguing against the Democrat's $50-billion measure with withdrawal and other provisions, Republicans are expected to cite recent positive reports about declining violence in Iraq.

Senator McConnell referred to progress in his response to a reporter about a report issued by Democrats Tuesday estimating that the overall economic cost to Americans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will reach $1.6 trillion by next year:

"Of course the war has been costly, but we have been protected from attack here at home. There is progress that is obviously being made in Iraq, being written about by most of your newspapers and outlets, and we need to finish the job and to finish the job is to leave Iraq in a condition that it can defend itself [and] it can be an ally in the war on terror," he said.

President Bush, who recently signed a $460-billion Defense Department spending bill without specific war funding, is certain to veto any bill he believes would tie the hands of military commanders, as he did with a measure earlier in the year.

When they bring the $50-billion measure to the floor, Democrats will again point to the fact that 2007 remains the deadliest year for American forces, and to the strains on the U.S. military and military families from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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