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US Lawmakers Finalize $75B War Spending Measure - 2003-04-01

House and Senate appropriations committees Tuesday were finalizing legislation for $75 billion requested by President George W. Bush to pay initial costs of the war in Iraq.

The House appropriations committee is expected to approve virtually all of what President Bush requested to pay for the costs of the war to disarm Iraq in the current fiscal year.

The committee's chairman, Florida Republican Congressman Bill Young, said Congress has a responsibility to fully fund the war effort, saying the congress has an obligation "to the people of America to make sure that we provide whatever is necessary to secure the homeland, and to defeat the sources of terrorism, wherever they might be."

Democrats and Republicans were supportive of the war budget which President Bush had asked not be weighed down by other spending requests.

However, numerous amendments were offered, reflecting strong emotions about the war in Iraq, reconstruction, and the lack of support for the U.S.-led effort by some key allies.

One of the most controversial issues was the president's request for $1 billion in aid for Turkey. Republican Congressman Randy Cunningham believes the United States needs to send a strong message to Ankara.

"Turkey knows what they did to us," stressed Rep. Cunningham. "And as far as their own economy, it was the opposition party that caused this. If anything, the Turks, the Turkish people, know who caused their economy to go bad. And if we do nothing to send a message that when they cost American and allied blood, and time and money, they're going to do it again."

Mr. Cunningham found himself opposed on the issue by the ranking Democrat on the appropriations committee, David Obey of Wisconsin. "Just because they made a mistake in their judgment, we should not compound that mistake by taking a step this morning that would most assuredly cause Secretary Powell more problems than he has right now," said Rep. Obey.

The committee voted down Congressman Cunningham's amendment to deny Turkey the $1 billion.

Also rejected was a proposal to deny participation in Iraq's reconstruction to companies from France, Germany, China, Russia and others who opposed American-led military action in Iraq. Republican Congressman George Nethercutt proposed the amendment, while another Republican, James Walsh, spoke against it.

"It says where there are American tax dollars going for reconstruction, that the coalition of the willing would receive preference, and the coalition of the unwilling would not," said Mr. Nethercutt.

"It's not a good way to run our foreign policy," countered Rep. Walsh. "I don't think we should be reactive. We're going to need a lot of help to rebuild this country, and we're going to need a lot of help for the war on terrorism. And the ramifications of this [amendment] will affect other countries, other countries' businesses, and it will ultimately affect our businesses."

House and Senate versions of the Iraq budget place tighter conditions than the Bush administration wanted on how money is spent on the war and related requirements. Both are also expected to add money to help U.S. airlines and bolster spending on homeland security.

President Bush has asked Congress to get a final bill to his desk no later than the middle of next week.