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SLUG: 2-323266 Congress Iraq Funding (L-O)
TITLE=CONGRESS/IRAQ FUNDING (L-O)
HEADLINE: House Debates Iraq, Afghanistan Funding
INTRO: The House of Representatives has taken up legislation on 81-point-three-billion dollars in funds to support U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. VOA's Dan Robinson reports from Capitol Hill on the measure which gives the president most of what he wanted for war funding:
TEXT: It is the latest of five fairly large bills President Bush has asked Congress to approve to pay for ongoing U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
All have been separate from the regular annual government budget approval process, thus they are called supplementals. President Bush originally proposed 81-point-nine-billion dollars.
This legislation contains money needed to supply U.S. troops with better body armor and upgraded vehicles, and proposes funds, although slightly less than requested, for a new U.S. embassy in Baghdad.
Most of the one-point-seven-billion dollars in foreign aid will support counter-narcotics, reconstruction, and training in Afghanistan.
Among countries helping in the war on terrorism, Jordan would receive 100-million dollars and Pakistan would get 150-million dollars.
When the legislation comes to a vote most House lawmakers are likely to support it based on what it contains for the U.S. military.
But opposition Democrats, such as David Obey of Wisconsin, are taking the opportunity to renew criticism of President Bush on war costs and other issues:
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"This country was mis-led into war on the basis of bad information and false information. I believe some of that was purposeful. I think our attack on Iraq is the dumbest American war since the war of 1812."
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Responding to this, Republicans such as Congressman Tom Cole said the question now is not the fact of U.S. and coalition military action to oust Saddam Hussein, but giving American troops what they need:
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"Are we going to provide people the resources they need to get the job done that we asked them to do. I think it is very important that we do that on a bipartisan basis, I think that will be a very powerful message in Iraq and a very powerful message around the Middle East."
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Republicans as well as Democrats are offering a number of amendments to the bill seeking to add or subtract funds.
One amendment proposed a special congressional committee to investigate the awarding and carrying out of contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The bill includes about 656-million dollars for tsunami relief, and one amendment proposes 150-million dollars in food assistance for people in Sudan's western Darfur region.
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Congressman Frank Wolf, a Virginia Republican, argued against a cut in the 580-million dollars contained in the bill for U.S. assistance to international peacekeeping missions, saying this would seriously affect peace efforts in Darfur and the rest of Sudan:
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"To take away the peacekeeping money after the Bush administration has done such a good job of bringing north-south peace, to take that away, to allow the raping and the pillaging and everything that is going on in Sudan would be morally unacceptable."
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As part of funding for U.S. troops, the bill also authorizes an increase in the amount of money paid to families of soldiers killed on active duty, from 12-thousand to 100-thousand dollars.
House approval would send the bill on to the Senate, and final passage would bring total U.S. expenditures in Iraq, Afghanistan and assistance to allies in the war on terrorism since the September 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States to about 300-billion dollars. (SIGNED)
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