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Democrats in US Congress Prepare Iraq-Afghanistan Funding Measure


Majority Democrats are preparing for a possible vote on legislation to fund war operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. VOA's Dan Robinson reports from Capitol Hill, where opposition Republicans raised procedural objections, and a group of House Democrats urged their leaders to require Iraq to pay future reconstruction and other costs.

The debate, which could take place on Thursday, involves the bulk of the money President Bush requested last year for Iraq and Afghanistan, including funds to help the Pentagon get through the early months of 2009.

Democrats have delayed consideration of the Iraq-Afghanistan supplemental bill, drawing criticism from the president and defense officials.

The measure lawmakers could consider this week is expected to total more than $180 billion.

Democrats are reported to be planning separate votes on war spending, provisions aimed at changing U.S. policy, and additional domestic items that have upset the White House.

"The Iraq war supplemental should remain for national security needs. We understand that there could be debates on other issues such as unemployment benefits and food stamps, other issues that are important to a lot of people, but those issues can be taken up separate from our national security needs in the Iraq war supplemental," said White House Press Secretary Dana Perino.

House Democratic leaders have also been consulting with their counterparts in the Senate, where on Thursday Senate appropriations committee chairman Robert Byrd will bring up the legislation there.

On Tuesday, Republicans used procedural tactics to delay votes on un-related bills, this to protest Democrat's decision to bypass regular committee order in bringing the legislation to the House floor.

In response to White House criticism, and warnings from President Bush about tacking on too much domestic spending, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says the Democratic measure is close to what the president requested.

Meanwhile, 47 Democrats who were elected to Congress in 2006 appealed to Pelosi and two key appropriations chairmen to include provisions requiring that future U.S. funding for reconstruction, military training and fuel be repaid by the Iraqi government from oil revenues.

Several Democrats say Americans are tired for paying for Iraq's needs.

"It's time for Iraq to step up and take control of its reconstruction and its future. Americans are no longer willing to write a blank check for Iraq's reconstruction costs, our military fuel costs, and the cost of training Iraq's military," said Rep. Ron Klein.

"For crying out loud, they want to know why we are continuing to send our American dollars overseas to Iraq to continue to pay for their reconstruction," added Rep. Nancy Boyda.

Congressman Klein says Democratic leaders want to include all or part of the recommendations, and have been working with the Senate, and it is very likely the Iraq funding language will end up in the Iraq-Afghanistan funding bill.

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