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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

$87.5Bln Iraqi, Afghan Aid Bill Passes Congress

WASHINGTON -- U.S. President George W. Bush will soon sign the $87.5 billion package he requested for Iraq and Afghanistan, but his Democratic critics used its final approval by Congress to highlight what they say are his failed policies in Iraq.

The Senate, in a voice vote on Monday, gave its assent to the legislation three days after the House blessed it by a 298-121 vote. It closely tracks the outlines of an $87 billion plan Bush requested Sept. 7 in a nationally broadcast speech.

"Our country is being tested," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said in a statement released in Crawford, Texas, where the president spent a long weekend. "Those who seek to kill coalition forces and innocent Iraqis want America and its coalition partners to run so the terrorists can reclaim control." He said the money, coupled with assistance from international donors, will help make Iraq more secure and help the transition to self-government for Iraqis. The money also will help Afghanistan become a peaceful, democratic and stable nation, he said.

During Monday's debate, Republicans defended the package as the best way to restore order in Iraq. The bill is dominated by $51 billion for U.S. military operations in Iraq and $18.6 billion to restore its oil industry, train police officers and otherwise rebuild the country's economy and government. "Security brings stability, and stability fosters democracy," said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Ted Stevens of Alaska, who helped write the bill.

Democrats were less charitable. A day after 19 troops died in the bloodiest day for U.S. forces in Iraq since March -- including 16 soldiers killed in a single attack Sunday -- many Democrats said what was really needed were more contributions of troops and money from U.S. allies.

Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle and four other top Democrats wrote Bush urging him to work harder to get multinational help and mobilize former Iraqi Army units. They said those and other steps would help in "securing and sustaining the support of the American people," as would "leveling with them about the stakes and costs of this effort."

The voice vote let lawmakers sidestep the roll call that usually accompanies major legislation. That underscored the complicated political calculus presented by the measure, which was dominated by popular funds for U.S. forces but also sparked questions about Bush's postwar Iraq policies and record budget deficits at home.

The measure was mostly for the federal budget year running through next Sept. 30, though some of the money is for a longer term. It was the second massive package for Iraq and combating terror that Bush has requested and Congress has produced in less than seven months. In April, it enacted a $79 billion bill that included $62.4 billion for the war in Iraq, which had just begun, plus other money for Afghanistan, tightened security at home and help for financially ailing U.S. airlines.

Though Bush got less than he wanted for Iraqi aid, the White House fended off lawmakers of both parties who had forced a provision through the Senate making half the aid to Iraq a loan. House-Senate bargainers killed that language last week.