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US Congress Debates Funding War Costs,  Aid to Allies - 2003-04-03


Congress is debating legislation to fund the initial costs of the war in Iraq. In both the House and Senate, Democrats and Republicans clashed over Democrat efforts to add more money to help pay for homeland security in the United States. There was also heated debate over proposed aid to Turkey.

Most of the $77 billion in a House bill, and $78 billion in the Senate version, goes to the Pentagon to pay for actual war costs.

But the bills also contain money for U.S. allies, such as Israel, Jordan, and Turkey as well as Pakistan, to aid their economies and defray Iraq-related costs, along with Afghanistan and the Philippines to help in the fight against terrorism.

Each bill contains funds requested by the Bush administration for homeland security. Democrats say that is not sufficient.

"As we support the men and women in uniform in Iraq, it's hard to understand how we can underfund the needs of our men and women in uniform on the front-line of homeland defense in America," said House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi.

Republicans say this is the wrong time, and the wrong legislation, to add spending for homeland security.

And John McCain, the Arizona Republican senator, expressed dismay that lawmakers were trying to do just that. "Today with many of our young men and women in harm's way, we should be considering a measure to support the ongoing war efforts and our nation's security needs, free of earmarked or unauthorized provisions," he said. "Unfortunately, that's not the case in the bill before us."

House and Senate debate reflected continuing unhappiness on the part of many lawmakers with opposition to the U.S.-led war in Iraq by key allies, notably France and Germany, and with Turkey's refusal to allow U.S. ground forces to enter Iraq from its territory.

Democratic Congressman Robert Wexler spoke out in this emotional display on the floor of the House, opposing an amendment by a Republican lawmaker to eliminate aid to Turkey. "To suggest that because they exercised their democracy, even though we may be disappointed by the decision, that they are somehow responsible for the letting of American blood, I don't believe is the message that the United State should ever suggest to an ally like Turkey," he said.

In the end the, Republican-controlled House voted overwhelmingly (315 to 110) to keep the $1 billion aid provision for Turkey.

In the Senate, Republican John Ensign introduced an amendment, later withdrawn, to bar French and German participation in Iraqi reconstruction. "When the conflict is over, and we're going to rebuild Iraq, American taxpayer dollars are not to go in the rebuilding of Iraq to French or German companies, to French or German citizens, because of what their governments did in opposing the United States," he said.

After the House and Senate vote on their Iraq war bills, any differences will have to be reconciled and then approved by both chambers.

President Bush wants a final Iraq war funding bill on his desk no later than April 11, just before the congressional spring recess begins.

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