Sunday, April 24, 2005

Bush seeks funding for Iraq, Afghanistan

Bush seeks funding for Iraq, Afghanistan

CRAWFORD, Texas (AP) — President Bush is pushing Congress to provide more money for combat and reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan — funds the Pentagon says it needs by the first week of May.

"I applaud the House and Senate for their strong support of my supplemental funding request for our troops serving on the front lines," Bush said Saturday in his radio address.

"This funding will help provide the weapons, ammunition, spare parts and equipment that our troops need to do their job," he said. "I urge Congress to come together to resolve their remaining differences, and send me a bill quickly."

House and Senate negotiators are expected to act soon to sort out differences between their versions of the $81 billion spending bill. Both versions would push the total cost of combat and reconstruction past $300 billion since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

They give the president much of the money he requested, but the bills differ slightly over what part would fund military operations and how much would go toward foreign aid. Other issues to be resolved include immigration laws, the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, military death benefits and the fate of an aircraft carrier.

Bush, who is spending the weekend at his Texas ranch, also prodded Congress to support cuts to Medicaid, the health care program for the poor and disabled that is run by federal and state governments.

In February, Bush proposed $8.5 billion in Medicaid cuts over five years. But the Republican-controlled Congress, leery of making politically unpopular cuts, has not been much help.

The Senate recently voted to strip $14 billion in proposed Medicaid cuts from a 2006 budget blueprint. With congressional midterm elections next year, some GOP Senate leaders saw the vote as evidence that little would be done for years to come to curb the rising costs of government benefit programs.

"Spending wisely means reducing wasteful spending that can threaten the viability of essential programs like Medicaid," Bush said. "We must end overpayment for prescription drugs by states and the federal government."

He pledged to work with states to make sure that federal Medicaid dollars are spent wisely and go to those in need of help.

"We must close loopholes that allow people who can afford to pay for their health care to shift the costs to Medicaid and drain resources needed to provide health care for the poorest Americans," he said.