US Congress passes revised Iraq spending bill


Washington : The US Senate and House of Representatives passed a spending measure for the war in Iraq after centre left Democrats agreed to remove deadlines for troop withdrawals, knuckling under a long-running confrontation with the White House.

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The $96 billion spending legislation was first passed Thursday evening in the lower House before flying through the Senate about two hours later.

In a second vote linked to the same bill, the House approved an additional 24 billion dollars in unrelated domestic spending.

Earlier Thursday, US President George W Bush urged Congress to pass the so-called emergency spending measure.

He vetoed an earlier version last month that contained firm deadlines and had vowed to continue to reject any withdrawal dates, which he argued would undermine the Iraqi government and ensure defeat.

The centre-left Democrats lack the two-thirds majorities required to over ride a president veto in both chambers, where Bush's centre-right Republicans still have large minorities despite their defeat in the November 2006 congressional elections.

The compromise legislation comes after weeks of negotiations between the opposition Democrats and the White House as funding for the US military presence in Iraq began to dwindle during an ongoing surge of 20,000 US troops ordered by Bush in January.

"We removed the arbitrary timetables for withdrawal and the restrictions on our military commanders that some in Congress had supported," Bush said.

Many Democrats said that they voted against the bill because it did not go far enough to begin planning for the departure of US troops from the Iraq conflict, which began with an invasion ordered by Bush in March 2003.

As part of the compromise, Bush supported a Republican proposal that includes benchmarks that the Iraqi government must meet or risk losing financial support. Some Democrats argue the benchmarks are too weak and difficult to enforce.