The U.S. Senate has unanimously approved a $447 billion defense spending bill that includes money to continue military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Despite their support of the bill, Senate Democrats continued their criticism of Bush administration policy on Iraq.
The bill, which funds defense department programs for the next budget year beginning Sunday, includes $70 billion for the military missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Senator Ted Stevens, an Alaska Republican, praised the legislation.
"We believe it addresses key requirements for readiness, quality of life and transformation of the force," said Mr. Stevens. "It honors the commitment we have to our armed forces. It helps ensure they will have continued first-rate training, modernized equipment and quality infrastructure. It provides the much-needed funds to continue the global war against terrorists."
The bill includes funding to repair or replace equipment worn out in harsh battlefield conditions in Iraq and Afghanistan. It also includes a Democrat-sponsored provision that prohibits the construction of permanent military bases in Iraq.
The bill, which the House of Representatives has also passed, goes to President Bush for his signature.
In a written statement, Mr. Bush said he would sign the measure, saying it would ensure that U.S. troops are prepared to defeat today's enemies and address tomorrow's threats.
With this bill, lawmakers have approved $507 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Most of the funds have gone to Iraq, where the Congressional Research Service says costs are now averaging $8 billion a month.
Despite their support of the legislation, Democrats did not pause in their criticism of the Bush administration's handling of the war in Iraq.
The Senate's number two Democrat, Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, urged the administration to alter its policy, and renewed his call for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's resignation.
"This secretary of defense has made deadly mistakes from the start in this four-year war," said Mr. Durbin. "It is time for a change."
In the House of Representatives, the top Democrat, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi of California, also called for a change of policy toward Iraq.
"Whether it is the cost in lives, which, of course is the most precious to us, the cost in limbs, the cost in dollars, the cost in reputation, the ineffectiveness of it all, the president wants to stay the course," she said. "Wrong, Mr. President. Face the facts. Tell the truth to the American people. Let's work together in a bipartisan way to clean up the mess you have made in Iraq, because you have not been in touch with reality."
Iraq is expected to be a key issue in the run-up to the November 7 election. Democrats hope public dissatisfaction with the course of the Iraq war will help them gain seats in the House and Senate, and possibly regain control of one or both houses.