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Congress Approves $80 Billion for War

Congress Approves $80 Billion for War

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- Moving with a sense of wartime urgency, the House and Senate separately agreed to give President Bush nearly $80 billion to carry out the battle against Iraq and meet the threat of terrorism.

At the same time, lawmakers acceded to a White House request to refrain from punishing Turkey for its anti-war stance. However, they sought to restrict France and other U.S. critics from helping rebuild Iraq.

Bush praised Congress in a statement released Friday by the White House, which said he would seek to combine the best elements of both bills before a measure reaches his desk.

"The House and Senate took strong and decisive action to provide our troops with the resources necessary to fight and win the war in Iraq, to respond to increased homeland security needs and to strengthen the capabilities of our allies," he said.

In late-night votes Thursday, the Senate by 93-0 and the House by 414-12, approved similar bills to provide some $62 billion to replenish defense funds depleted by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The measures also include about $8 billion for Iraqi reconstruction and foreign aid, more than $4 billion for homeland security and about $3 billion to help the nation's struggling airline industry.

The money all would come from enlarging the federal deficit, which could approach $400 billion this year and next.

With both House and Senate passage, it appears near certain the two chambers will resolve their differences and hand the president a bill by April 11, the day Congress recesses for a two-week spring break.

Before they voted Thursday, lawmakers, including those who questioned the president's decision to go to war, were near unanimous in agreeing that the war effort should be fully funded. "We certainly will be voting to support the supplemental that the president has requested to support our troops in this very, very dangerous and difficult time," said House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, a prewar opponent of Bush's policies.

The administration had a harder time winning approval for the foreign aid and homeland security parts of the package.

The House, in a voice vote, banned U.S. dollars from going to French, German, Syrian or Russian companies for postwar reconstruction projects in Iraq. Those countries all opposed the U.S. campaign to win U.N. endorsement for military action in Iraq. American taxpayer money should not go to the "coalition of the unwilling," said Rep. George Nethercutt, R-Wash., sponsor of the amendment with Rep. Mark Kennedy, R-Minn.

The administration urged Congress to defeat the amendment, and Rep. Jim Kolbe, R-Ariz., warned that thousands of Americans working for U.S.-based subsidiaries of foreign companies could find their jobs at risk. Critics suggested the provision was unlikely to survive House-Senate talks on a final product.

In a win for the administration, the House voted 315-110 to defeat an amendment by Rep. Duke Cunningham, R-Calif., to eliminate $1 billion designated for Turkey, which denied use of its land to U.S. troops entering northern Iraq.

"There needs to be some message sent to any country that chooses to put in harm's way American and allied soldiers, that there will be a penalty," Cunningham said.

But White House national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, in a letter to Congress, said American and Turkish soldiers had stood side-by-side on battlefields from Korea to Afghanistan and that the aid "could play a significant role in bolstering the U.S.-Turkey partnership."

The House bill stood at $77.9 billion, $3.2 billion above the president's request because of the addition of money to compensate airlines for their security-related costs. The Senate plan neared $80 billion with the acceptance of several amendments during the day. One, by Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wis., provided $600 million for Iraqi food aid.

But Democrats were thwarted in their efforts to significantly boost spending for homeland security, which they say has been seriously underfunded by the Bush administration.

The administration proposal, Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle said, "suffers from a significant blind spot that we ignore at the peril of the safety and security of every American." On a party-line vote House Republicans turned back a Democratic attempt to get floor consideration of a plan to add $2.5 billion to the bill for first responders and to improve rail, port, water and chemical plant security.

The Senate voted 66-31 for a Republican amendment adding $200 million to the bill to increase spending for first responders in big cities, like New York, considered at higher risk for terrorist attacks. The Senate then defeated Democrats seeking a $2.3 billion increase, 51-46.

The top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, David Obey of Wisconsin, warned that the war package, designed to last through the end of this budget year on Sept. 30, wouldn't be the last. It "understates and hides from public view the real cost of this war," he said. "I think we are getting into some long term costs associated with this war far in excess of what the Pentagon, the State Department or the White House are admitting."

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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