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Bush Urges Congress to Pass 'Clean' War Funding Bill


American lawmakers are divided over funding the war in Iraq. President Bush says opposition Democrats are endangering troops in the field by not passing his request for funding. Democrats say Mr. Bush and the Republicans are blocking efforts to change course in Iraq. Scott Stearns reports from the White House.

Senate Republicans on Friday blocked a Democratic bill that sought to link $50 billion in additional war funding to the goal of withdrawing American combat troops from Iraq by the end of next year.

And Senate Democrats blocked a Republican bill that would have allocated $70 billion to the war without conditions.

President Bush says Congress is failing to meet its responsibilities to U.S. troops. In his weekly radio address, he says Democrats are using the appropriations process to make a political statement about the war.

"We do not need members of Congress telling our commanders what to do," he said. "We need Congress listening to our military commanders and giving them what they need to win the war against extremists and radicals. Congress knows I'll veto this bill. During this time of war, our troops deserve the full support of Congress - and that means giving our troops the funding they need to successfully carry out their mission."

While Democrats have so far failed to set restrictions on the president's war efforts, they have made it more difficult for the military to get the money it says it needs.

Opposition to the war is one of the biggest reasons Democrats took control of Congress earlier this year. The latest public opinion poll by NBC News and The Wall Street Journal says more than two-thirds of Americans disapprove of how President Bush is handling the war in Iraq.

In the Democratic radio address, Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey says the president's strategy is flawed because his decision to send more troops to Iraq earlier this year was meant to give Iraqi leaders the time to achieve political reconciliation. Casey says that is not happening and Iraqi leaders are failing to take responsibility for their own security.

"That means our troops are fighting for a peace that we seem more interested in achieving than the Iraqi politicians do themselves," He said. "And as the Iraqi leaders drag their feet, the cost of the war to our troops, to our national security, and to our treasury keeps rising."

Casey says Democrats want a way forward that he says will responsibly redeploy American combat forces out of Iraq to better focus on training Iraqi soldiers.

Congressional Democrats say if they cannot pass funding legislation tied to troop withdrawals now, they will wait until next year to deal with funding.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates says if Congress fails to authorize money now, he will be forced to lay off some 200,000 employees and military contractors.

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