US Senate okays $70 billion for war in Iraq, Afghanistan

The US Senate late Tuesday approved a half-trillion dollar budget bill for 2008 that includes 70 billion dollars for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, handing a major victory to President George W Bush.
The Senate voted 70-25 to approve the catch-all budget bill but added extra war funds after the House of Representatives version passed Monday included 31 billion dollars solely for US-led efforts in Afghanistan but none for Iraq.
The version passed by the Senate does not include any of the restrictions that Democrats hoped to pin on the release of war funds, such as linking them to a withdrawal date for US troops.
The bill returns to the House for a vote on Wednesday, though lawmakers are only to vote on the war funding portion added by the Senate. If it passes, Bush has indicated he will sign the spending package.
Amid deep differences with the Congress over the Iraq war, the White House had threatened to veto the entire spending bill if it contained no funding for Iraq.
“Obviously, the full funding that we requested since February is what the troops need — not just what they want, but what they need. But this will help us get through this period,” said Bush spokeswoman Dana Perino.
Democrats, who took over the US Congress in November 2006 elections fueled by anger at the war in Iraq, have tried without success to use their power of the purse to impose a timetable for withdrawal from the strife-torn country where nearly 4,000 US troops have died since the March 2003 invasion.
Democrats reportedly also gave up several billion dollars’ worth of other budget demands rejected by Bush, in order to see the spending measure passed before the year-end recess. They have also been concerned about being seen as unsupportive of US troops in battle at Christmas.
Democratic House majority leader Steny Hoyer told CNN that the House initially passed the 31 billion dollars in funding for Afghanistan “so that we could confront terrorism and defeat the Taliban which was, after all, the site from which this country was attacked and which, frankly, we have distracted our attention from.” The package, known as the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2008, includes 11 of 12 annual appropriations bills, The package, known as the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2008, includes 11 of 12 annual appropriations bills,


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