Thursday, June 08, 2006

House panel clears another $50 billion for Iraq

House panel clears another $50 billion for Iraq

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee approved a bill on Wednesday that would give another $50 billion next year to President George W. Bush for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The House Appropriations defense subcommittee cleared a $427 billion bill to fund the Pentagon next fiscal year starting on October 1, including the additional $50 billion which was primarily for Iraq.

The subcommittee passed its bill as House and Senate negotiators put final touches on an emergency measure for about $67 billion the Pentagon wants immediately to cover the wars' rising costs.

The next $50 billion bridge fund, which lawmakers expect to cover about six months, would bring the cost of both wars to nearly $450 billion, and many expect that to reach $500 billion by the end of next year.

Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia, top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, said the Pentagon was spending about $8 billion a month on Iraq, where costs have climbed, and about $1 billion a month in Afghanistan.

The House subcommittee approved its spending bill in a closed session. Congressional aides said the bill provides an additional $500 million to the National Guard to repair and replace equipment worn out in the wars.

The Senate has not yet taken up its version of the bill to fund the Pentagon next year.

As lawmakers dealt with mounting public frustration over the Iraq war and its stunning cost, the full House was scheduled next week to debate a resolution on the war.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert, an Illinois Republican, said Republicans on the International Relations Committee were preparing a resolution discussing reasons for the Iraq war as well as "our goals and views in fighting against terrorism."

Hastert's spokesman Ron Bonjean said the resolution was intended to be "very explicit -- Iraq is the main front" in the war on terror.

Many Democrats contend that by invading Iraq, Bush diverted resources from fighting al Qaeda, which was responsible for the September 11, 2001, attacks. They say Bush falsely tried to link toppled Iraqi President Saddam Hussein with al Qaeda as an excuse for the war.