Congress backs multi-billion Iraq package

Ignoring popular rising anti-occupation sentiment the US House of Representatives has strongly endorsed a $87.5 billion package, mainly to sustain the country’s military forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Congress preferred not to delve deep into antiwar sentiments

    "Congress stood with the president and our soldiers tonight, sending them the support they need to defend our nation and all those working to advance freedom abroad," said Republican Representative Roy Blunt.


    The package, approved 298-121 on Friday morning, includes nearly $65 billion for military

    personnel and operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and an additional $18.6 billion for reconstruction efforts in Iraq.


    The Senate is expected to follow suit quickly, sending President Bush a package that closely mirrors his original request.


    Final details


    In a victory for the White House, lawmakers from both chambers worked out the final details of the package on Wednesday night, eliminating a Senate provision that would have required that half of the money for Iraqi reconstruction and security forces be given as loans instead of grants.


    Democrats, while saying US troops must be given full financial backing, used the debate to criticise the scope of the package and the lack of congressional controls over how it will be spent.


    "We are going to be held accountable for this vote for a long time," said David Obey, the top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee. Constituents "are going to be asking us about the loans, they are going to be asking us whether or not there is adequate protection for taxpayer money."


    "We are going to be held accountable for this vote for a long time"

    David Obey
    Democrat, Appropriations Committee

    The White House had threatened to veto the bill if loans were included. It said Iraq was already too deeply in debt and didn't have a government authorised to take on new loans.


    It also said that any loans secured by Iraq's oil revenues would only support the arguments of war critics who said the US was after Iraq's oil.


    Supporters of the loans said US taxpayers are already paying plenty for Iraq and Iraqis should have a bigger stake in their country's reconstruction.


    The House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, on Thursday said that dropping the loans shows a "tin ear to what the American people are saying."   


    The final version of the bill included $64.7 billion for military operations, just under the $65.1 billion Bush had sought.


    The $18.6 billion for reconstruction and security in Iraq was less than $20.3 billion requested.


    The bill would also provide $1.2 billion for Afghanistan, compared with $800 million sought by Bush. 

    SOURCE: Agencies


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