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Senate approves $87-billion Bush request

The Senate gave its final approval Monday to President Bush's request for $87.5-billion to occupy and rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan, completing congressional action on the largest emergency spending bill ever sought by a president.

The Senate's action came on a voice vote with only six members present, meaning that the decisions of individual members on the administration's vision for Iraq would not be recorded. That appealed to both Republicans nervous about explaining the huge amount to their voters, and Democrats who did not want their patriotism questioned for voting no.

On Friday, the House voted 298-121 in favor of the bill. The bill now goes to the president for his signature.

Sen. Robert Byrd, a West Virginia Democrat who has been the loudest congressional challenger to the administration's Iraq policy, was the lone voice shouting no during the vote, a contrast to the 12 senators who opposed the emergency spending bill, known as a supplemental, in a preliminary vote last month.

In some of the day's strongest words, Byrd called the bill a "monument to failure," citing the lack of help from allies and persistent U.S. casualties.

The misgivings raised by members of both parties to the size of the price tag and the nation's dominance over Iraq's future were swept away by the administration's ability to frame the vote as a test of support for American troops, and for the global campaign against terrorism.

"This supplemental will provide the equipment, fuel, ammunition and pay our forces need and deserve as they continue their tasks in Iraq, Afghanistan and in the other locations where they continue to stand in harm's way fighting the global war on terrorism," said Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, who shepherded the bill through the Senate as chairman of the Appropriations Committee.

"As the president said time and time again, we will not walk away from Iraq," Stevens said. "We will not leave the Iraqi people in chaos, and we will not create a vacuum for terrorist groups to fill."

In a statement issued by the White House on Monday night, Bush said: "The strong bipartisan show of support for this bill underscores that America and the world are united to prevail in the central front in the war on terror by helping build a peaceful, democratic, and prosperous Iraq."

The bulk of the bill, $65.7-billion, will pay for the continuing military occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, with $24-billion alone going for Army operations and $10-billion earmarked for Afghanistan. Congress agreed to give $983-million for the operating expenses of the American authority in Iraq, and added to the president's request $500-million for assistance to victims of the California wildfires and Hurricane Isabel.

The most contentious part of the bill was the $20.3-billion requested by the president for rebuilding Iraq. Although the president won the larger battle, preventing Iraq from having to repay any of that money to the United States, he was forced to accept a $1.6-billion cut in the total after scores of lawmakers objected to projects they considered unnecessary.

The measure was the second huge package for Iraq and combating terror that Bush has requested and Congress has produced in less than seven months.

In April, they enacted a $79-billion package 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.

_ Information from the New York Times and Associated Press was used in this report.

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