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Gates Faces Questions on US Troop Increase for Iraq, Military Budget


U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says he is considering what steps to take if President Bush's troop increase for Iraq does not work.

Gates was answering questions from members of the Senate Armed Services Committee on the proposed budget for military operations. The defense secretary said he would be irresponsible if he were not thinking about what the alternatives might be.

A number of congressional panels are holding hearings on Iraq Tuesday, one day after minority Republicans in the Senate blocked debate on a resolution that opposes President Bush's decision to send thousands of additional troops to Iraq.

Democrats control the Senate, but in a procedural roll call late Monday that went largely along party lines, the majority party fell well short of the 60 votes needed to consider the Iraq resolution.

In other developments, the Senate Armed Services Committee unanimously approved the nomination of Admiral William Fallon to become the new top commander in the Middle East. Fallon had been commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific. The panel also approved making General George Casey the U.S. Army Chief of Staff. The vote on his nomination was 14 to 3, with opposition coming from Republicans. Both nominations must now be considered by the full Senate.

The Democratic Party won control of both houses of Congress last year in an election decided largely by voter displeasure with the war.