US lawmakers send Iraq war funds bill to Bush

22 hours ago

WASHINGTON (AFP) — US lawmakers Wednesday passed a major bill including funding for the Iraq war for President George W. Bush to sign, after Democrats failed again in efforts to pressure him over the unpopular conflict.

The House of Representatives voted 272 to 142 to approve changes made Tuesday by the Senate, which allocated 70 billion dollars of funding for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Bush indicated he will sign the spending package if it passed the House.

In its earlier form, the bill had allocated money for operations in Afghanistan but none for Iraq -- part of an ongoing drive to force Bush to scale back US involvement in the war-scarred country.

Democrats took control of the US Congress in January 2007, propelled by voter discontent over Iraq, but they have had no luck in using the legislature's power over federal spending to force a timetable for a US withdrawal from Iraq.

The Senate approved the war funds Tuesday along with a catch-all 555 billion dollar budget bill, but was unable to push through any restrictions on the war spending.

Democrats 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.

John Mueller, professor at Ohio State University, said the war has proved to be less of a rallying cry than most pundits expected, and even had failed to become the salient 2008 election campaign issue.

"The people who are opposed to the war don't have any place else to go," he said.

"If the enthusiasm for that issue fades, both money and energy is going to fade some," he said.

Democratic House majority leader Steny Hoyer told CNN late Tuesday that the House initially approved 31 billion dollars in funding for just Afghanistan "so that we could confront terrorism and defeat the Taliban," but the final legislation funded both conflicts.

Republican Senator Mitch McConnell, who introduced the amendment to add funding for the Iraq war, said the earlier House version "underfunded" troops in Iraq.

"Troops in the field will not be left without the resources they need," the Republican leader declared.

McConnell said recent military successes in Iraq following the "surge" of thousands of additional troops have turned the tide politically in the United States.

"One of the reasons we were able to succeed in getting the additional funding without strings is the fact that it doesn't (look) any longer like a kind of hopeless venture."

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid sponsored an amendment that would have required the president to safely redeploy US troops from Iraq after no more than nine months.

But like dozens of other Democratic antiwar amendments, his measure went down to defeat, prompting Reid to say that Democrats have been unimpressive in their efforts to rein in the war.

"The American people are rightly frustrated that more has not been done to responsibly end the Iraq war," he said.

"I share that frustration. But within the confines of a stubborn, obstinate president and a Republican Congress that knows no other way but to carry his water, Democrats have made a difference," Reid said.

While less salient than anticipated this election season, the Iraq war remains a major talking point with several Democratic contenders for the 2008 presidential race.

US senator Hillary Clinton, a frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, was among the candidates who criticized Tuesday's vote for the amended funding bill.

"As I have said before, I cannot and will not support continuing to fund a flawed and failed strategy in Iraq."

"Rather than continue with a flawed and failing policy in Iraq, it is time to change course," Clinton said.