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House Debates Iraq, Afghanistan Funding

The House of Representatives is expected to vote Wednesday on legislation to provide $81.3 billion to support U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It is the latest of five bills President Bush has asked Congress to approve to pay for ongoing U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

All have been separate from the regular annual government budget approval process, thus they are called supplementals. President Bush originally proposed 81-point-nine-billion dollars.

This legislation contains money needed to supply U.S. troops with better body armor and upgraded vehicles, and proposes funds, although slightly less than requested, for a new U.S. embassy in Baghdad.

Most of the $1.7-billion in foreign aid will support counter-narcotics, reconstruction, and training in Afghanistan.

Among countries helping in the war on terrorism, Jordan would receive $100 million and Pakistan would get $150 million.

Most House lawmakers are likely to support the legislation based on what it contains for the U.S. military. However, some say they will vote against it, saying President Bush has failed to put forward a clear plan for Iraq and accurate estimates of war costs.

On Tuesday, opposition Democrats, such as David Obey of Wisconsin, took the opportunity to renew criticism of President Bush on war costs and other issues. "This country was mis-led into war on the basis of bad information and false information. I believe some of that was purposeful. I think our attack on Iraq is the dumbest American war since the war of 1812," he eaid.

Responding to this, Republicans such as Congressman Tom Cole said the question now is not the fact of U.S. and coalition military action to oust Saddam Hussein, but giving American troops what they need. "Are we going to provide people the resources they need to get the job done that we asked them to do. I think it is very important that we do that on a bipartisan basis, I think that will be a very powerful message in Iraq and a very powerful message around the Middle East," he said.

The House rejected an amendment that had bipartisan support, proposing to create a special congressional committee to investigate the awarding and carrying out of contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In a victory for those seeking more money for victims of conflict in Sudan, the House approved amendments to increase money in the bill for food, disaster relief, and refugee aid, for Sudan's western Darfur region.

On another matter, Congressman Frank Wolf, a Virginia Republican, argued against reducing $580 million in the bill for U.S. assistance to international peacekeeping missions, saying this would seriously affect peace efforts in Darfur and the rest of Sudan. "To take away the peacekeeping money after the Bush administration has done such a good job of bringing north-south peace, to take that away, to allow the raping and the pillaging and everything that is going on in Sudan would be morally unacceptable."

Also rejected on Tuesday was an amendment proposing to eliminate $200 million to be provided indirectly to the Palestinians.

Also included in the legislation: $656 million in relief for countries devastated by last December's tsunami in the Indian Ocean.

As part of funding for U.S. troops, the bill also authorizes an increase in the amount of money paid to families of soldiers killed on active duty, from $12,000 to $100,000.

House approval would send the bill on to the Senate which is not expected to take it up until April.

Final passage by Congress would bring total U.S. expenditures in Iraq, Afghanistan and assistance to allies in the war on terrorism since the September 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States to about $300 billion.

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