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Senate passes record military budget copy

Published September 30, 2006

WASHINGTON - The Senate unanimously approved $70-billion more for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan Friday as part of a record Pentagon budget.

The bill, now on its way to the White House for President Bush's signature, totals $448-billion. It was passed by a 100-0 vote after minimal debate.

Approval by a comfortable margin came despite intense partisan divisions over the course of the Iraq war, which is costing about $8-billion a month. Another infusion of money will be needed next spring.

At the White House, President Bush said he would sign the bill and thanked Congress "for passing legislation that will provide our men and women in uniform with the necessary resources to protect our country and win the war on terror."

"As our troops risk their lives to fight terrorism," he said, "this bill will ensure they are prepared to defeat today's enemies and address tomorrows threats. I look forward to signing this bill into law."

The House-Senate compromise bill provides $378-billion for core Pentagon programs, about a 5 percent increase, though slightly less than President Bush asked for. The $70-billion for Iraq and Afghanistan is a down payment on war costs the White House has estimated will hit $110-billion for the budget year beginning Oct. 1.

Congress has now approved $507-billion for Iraq, Afghanistan and heightened security at overseas military bases since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, according to the Congressional Research Service. The war in Iraq has cost $379-billion and the conflict in Afghanistan now totals $97-billion.

The Iraq war continues to be unpopular with voters, according to opinion polls, but even Democratic opponents of the war voted for the Pentagon measure, which provides funding for body armor and other support for U.S. troops overseas.

"America is in deep trouble in Iraq," said Edward Kennedy, D-Mass. "The continuing violence and death is ominous. ... Militias are growing in strength and continue to operate outside the law. Death squads are rampant."

The growing price tag of the Iraq conflict is partly driven by the need to repair and replace military equipment worn out in harsh, dusty conditions in Iraq and Afghanistan or destroyed in battle. Almost $23-billion was approved for Army, Marine Corps and National Guard equipment such as helicopters, armored Humvees, Bradley armored fighting vehicles, radios and night-vision equipment.

Lawmakers allotted $1.9-billion for new jammers to counter improvised explosive devices in Iraq and Afghanistan and $1-billion is provided for body armor and other personal protective gear.

There is also a stack of pet projects for lawmakers' homes states and districts, including $372-million obtained for Hawaii, home of Daniel Inouye, top Democrat on the defense appropriations panel.

[Last modified September 30, 2006, 01:34:43]

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