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Bush urges Congress to approve war funding before Christmas

  • Story Highlights
  • Dems have said they plan to hold Bush's request for war spending until next year
  • $50 billion war spending bill passed the House but stalled last week in the Senate
  • Bush called on Congress to approve funds "without strings and without delay"
  • Pentagon says Army will have to make major cutbacks if it doesn't get the funds
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush on Thursday called on Congress to approve billions of dollars in additional funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan before lawmakers leave for their Christmas break.

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President Bush wants Congress to approve his request for war spending before the holidays.

He said the Army will have to shut down bases and start furloughing between 100,000 and 200,000 civilian workers by mid-February if Congress does not clear the funds.

"Pentagon officials have warned Congress that the continued delay in funding our troops will soon begin to have a damaging impact on the operations of this department," Bush said Thursday. "The warning has been laid out for the United States Congress to hear."

Defense Secretary Robert Gates already has ordered the Army and Marine Corps to plan for cutbacks, including civilian layoffs, termination of contracts and reduced operations at bases, The Associated Press reported.

A $50 billion war spending bill, which would have required U.S. troops to begin leaving Iraq within 30 days, passed the House but stalled last week in the Senate -- with Republicans balking at the withdrawal provision.

Speaking at the Pentagon, Bush called on Congress to approve the funds "without strings and without delay." Video Watch Bush issue his stern warning »

In May, Bush vetoed another spending bill that included a non-binding goal of having combat troops out of Iraq by early next year. Majority Democrats in Congress eventually approved funds without that provision.

The $50 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan that was approved by the House is about a quarter of what the administration requested.

Congressional Democrats have disputed that, saying the Pentagon could shift existing funds to continue the efforts.

"The president demands more money to continue his failed war policy, yet he and his enablers in Congress have rejected our proposal for an additional $50 billion provided they work with us to change course in Iraq," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. "He cannot have it both ways."

Rep. John Murtha, a Pennsylvania Democrat who chairs the subcommittee that oversees Pentagon spending, said Thursday that House leaders may be open to a compromise on the spending plan.

Just back from a visit to Iraq, Murtha -- a retired Marine colonel and Vietnam veteran -- said leadership may consider pushing back the deadline for troop withdrawal.

"We can get the troops out, but we can't get the equipment out probably in less than in two years," Murtha said. "It's not logical unless we leave an awful lot of equipment there to think we can."

At a briefing with reporters, Murtha said the situation in Baghdad has improved.

"I think the surge is working, but that's only one element," he said.

Murtha stressed that the administration needs to improve diplomatic efforts and provide Congress with an outline for how troops would be redeployed after an Iraq withdrawal.

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A spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday the speaker has no intention of backing off a goal of having U.S. troops out of Iraq by next December and does not plan to revisit war funding before the end of the year.

"The speaker has said we will not initiate any funding legislation for the war this year," said spokesman Nadeam Elshami. "The House has already passed $50 billion." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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