US Congress debates Iraq funding

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

President Bush delivers a statement on the budget Monday, December 3, 2007, in the White House Rose Garden.

The United States Congress has returned from a two-week recess to face a busy agenda before it completes its session later this month. President George W. Bush is urging lawmakers to approve his funding request for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as a first priority.

President Bush renewed his criticism of majority Democrats in Congress who want to tie a timetable for the withdrawal of United States troops from Iraq with approval of more funds for the war effort.

"It's unconscionable to deny funds to our troops in harm's way because some in Congress want to force a self-defeating policy — especially when we're seeing the benefits of success," said President Bush.

Mr. Bush says progress made on the battlefield as a result of a boost in the number of troops in Iraq this year would be undermined by a troop withdrawal timeline.

The President has requested US$196 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The House of Representatives has approved US$50 billion of that. But in the Senate, Republican blocked a similar funding package last month because it included a timetable for a troop withdrawal.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said the failure of the Senate to approve the war funding should not be blamed on the Democrats.

"If not for the stubborn refusal of the president and his Republicans enablers to work with us, we would have accomplished a lot more," said Senator Reid.

Although Mr. Bush had warned that the Pentagon would be forced to begin laying off civilian employees if the funds are not received soon, Senator Reid said the Pentagon could shift funds for the war effort from other accounts.

Besides funding for the war, Congress must also pass legislation funding government agencies and programs. In addition, lawmakers may also try to revise a wiretapping law that expires in two months.