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Iraq Major Part of Friday Defense Debate in US House of Representatives


Consideration Friday by the House of Representatives of defense spending legislation will give Democrats and Republicans a last opportunity before a long summer break to voice opposing views about the situation in Iraq. But as VOA's Dan Robinson reports from Capitol Hill, majority Democrats will be holding much of their fire until September, when the Bush administration is to deliver a major report on Iraq.

Debate on the fiscal 2008 defense bill will bring Democrats and Republicans to the House floor for a final time before the August break to debate Iraq, as well as Afghanistan.

At nearly $460 billion, the measure does not include another 147 billion dollars President Bush has requested to pay for military operations, while the Senate has yet to act on its version of the larger defense bill.

Consideration of the additional Iraq-Afghanistan funds will occur after Congress returns in September, a time frame that will also include the long-awaited report to Congress by U.S. Iraq commander General David Petraeus.

Whereas last week, House Democratic leaders appeared set on pressing another symbolic full-scale assault on the president's Iraq policies before leaving town, most action now will wait until September.

On Thursday, the House did pass (229 to 194) legislation requiring that U.S. military units receive minimum rest periods between deployments to Iraq, and that National Guard and military reservists not be redeployed without remaining home at least three times as long as their previous deployment.

Democratic Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher was the chief sponsor, saying the legislation was necessary because of the strains on U.S. troops. "We are sending more and more men and women to Iraq every day, and the Bush administration is failing to accurately account for all of the costs of the repeated deployments," he said.

Republicans such as Congressman Duncan Hunter countered that the measure would place unusual constraints on military commanders. "This bill, which will put a straight jacket on our ability to deploy troops on the basis that their clock has not yet expired back in the U.S. before they go over, is going to have an incredibly detrimental effect on our ability to project a well-rounded, effective fighting team in the war-fighting theater in Iraq," he said.

Although it gives him authority to waive the requirements, President Bush has threatened a veto of the measure, which was similar to one that failed earlier in the Senate.

This week, other Democratic measures, including one that in its original form would have required the Bush administration to provide Congress with a comprehensive strategy for redeploying U.S. forces from Iraq, ran into trouble amid disagreements among House Democrats.

That was also the case with a plan by Democratic Congressman John Murtha to introduce an amendment to the defense bill calling for a withdrawal of U.S. forces, but with no specific target for completion.