The package gives President George Bush the huge amount he sought to finance Iraq’s occupation and reconstruction.

 

The Senate on Tuesday passed the measure giving $64.7 billion to support US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and $18.6 billion in grants to rebuild Iraq, following the overwhelming vote for it in the House of Representatives.

 

Bowing to Bush, lawmakers provided all the reconstruction money on a no-strings basis, although a number of Republicans joined Democrats in advocating that at least half of the rebuilding money be in the form of loans.

 

Veto threatened

   

The White House had threatened to veto the entire bill if it required any repayment, which it argued would undermine efforts to stabilise Iraq, prolong the US occupation and burden Iraq with more debt.

   

The passage of the bill was never in doubt, as lawmakers said the money to support US troops was essential and that the United States had no option but to keep forces in Iraq.

   

But the package was a lightning rod for Democrats' criticisms of Bush's policies, which they say have entangled the US in a prolonged and costly conflict that, as polls show, is causing increased public doubt over the wisdom of the invasion.