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US Lawmakers Approve Additional Iraq, Afghanistan Funding

The House of Representatives has approved a $427 billion defense spending bill that includes $50 billion in additional support for U.S. military needs in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The appropriations legislation contains $50 billion for U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. President Bush requested that amount in his 2007 fiscal year budget as a contingency fund for operations there and the global war on terrorism.

Included is about $2.4 billion for Pentagon efforts to counter explosive devices set by terrorists and Iraqi insurgents and improved body armor for U.S. troops, and $1 billion for training and equipping Iraqi and Afghan security forces.

Approval of the defense bill follows earlier House and Senate action on a measure containing about $70 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. President Bush signed that into law last week.

Although the House defense appropriations bill passed overwhelmingly with bipartisan support, amendment debate highlighted ongoing differences over the war in Iraq and other issues.

One provision in the bill prohibits the use of any money to support the establishment of permanent U.S. bases in Iraq.

Democrat David Obey says Congress needs to underscore its views regarding this issue.

"It certainly can do no harm, and I think would do considerable good for the Congress to make clear that it has no intention of supporting permanent bases in Iraq," said Obey. "I think that would be of significant help in taking the target off our soldier's back[s] over there."

Republicans also agreed to a Democrat-sponsored amendment opposing the use of torture during interrogations of terrorist suspects, saying it merely reflects President Bush's position on the issue.

There was extended and passionate debate on another Democrat proposal aimed at exerting stronger control over the Bush administration's program of monitoring domestic telephone conversations by forcing it to obtain approval from a special Foreign Intelligence Surveillance intelligence court.

The amendment, which would have prohibited the use of funds to conduct electronic surveillance unless the Bush administration obtained the proper warrant, was defeated in a mostly party line vote.

Iraq remained a focus also in the Senate where lawmakers considered a $517 billion defense authorization bill and Democrats wrestled with the wording of an amendment they plan to offer dealing with a plan for withdrawing U.S. troops.

Senate defense legislation also contains a $50 billion contingency fund for Iraq and Afghanistan. House and Senate negotiators must eventually reconcile differences between respective bills before a final version can be signed by President Bush.