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Bush Keeps Up Pressure on Congress to Approve War Spending Bill


President Bush is urging Congress to pass several pieces of legislation when the lawmakers return from a long holiday recess next week. Among them, the president is pushing for funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. From Washington, VOA's Margaret Besheer has more.

Congress returns Monday to what the president says is "a lot of unfinished business."

"Members of Congress now have only a few weeks left before they head home for the [Christmas] holidays," he said. "Before they do so, I urge them to do their job: fund our troops, protect our citizens, provide taxpayers relief, and responsibly fund our government."

In his weekly radio address Saturday, the president urged lawmakers to renew anti-terrorism legislation that allows U.S. intelligence agencies to monitor domestic phone calls without court permission, as long as one end of the conversation is reasonably believed to be outside the United States. The Bush administration also wants congress to protect telecommunications companies from lawsuits for having turned over telephone records of Americans.

Mr. Bush is also pushing Congress to pass bills that fund the daily operations of the U.S. government and limit the tax burden on middle class Americans.

But the president's top priority is to win congressional approval of his $196 billion request for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The money is for the 2008 fiscal year, which began October 1. The president and the Pentagon argue that further delays in approving these funds would force cuts in military operations across the United States and ultimately compromise the war on terror.

The Democrats have offered to pass $50 billion of the president's requested $196 billion, but on condition that most U.S. troops leave Iraq by next December. The president says he will veto any legislation linked to those terms.

Virginia Senator Jim Webb, a Democrat, just returned from a trip to Iraq. He told reporters Saturday that warnings about military cuts are just "gamesmanship" on the part of the Pentagon, and that there will be no negative impact if Congress continues the debate on the war funding bill for several more weeks.

"You are asked to appropriate programs that have not been debated, and they are all lumped together, and so supposedly you are shutting down the military men and women if you vote against anything that comes out of the administration," he said. "So you begin to understand the frustration in the Congress."

The Democrats have said they will not give the president a free hand to pay for the war.

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