US House, Senate negotiators approve Pentagon cash

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WASHINGTON, Nov 6 (Reuters) US congressional negotiators today approved a military spending bill for fiscal 2008 and stopgap legislation to fund the rest of the US government until December -- but without any more money for the Iraq war.

Republicans denounced the decision just before the vote by members of the House of Representatives and Senate appropriations committees. Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens said the Army would run out of money in January for the Iraq war.

''I do believe Congress would break the Army if it refused to provide the funds these forces need now,'' Stevens said.

But his proposal to add 70 billion dollars for the war was voted down.

Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia, a Democrat, argued that the new war money should not be added, saying it would ''send to the president additional money for his horrible, misguided war in Iraq.'' The negotiators voted to send to the floor of both chambers a measure providing about 460 billion dollars for the core Pentagon budget for fiscal 2008, which began on October. 1.

They added a stopgap provision that would keep the rest of the government going until December. 14, a Senate aide said. With most of the legislation to fund the government still unfinished, the government is operating on a stopgap funding measure that lasts until November. 16.

So far, Congress has given the Bush administration 604 billion dollars for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, with about 412 billion dollars spent in Iraq, according to the Congressional Budget Office, Congress' in-house budget analyst.

President George W Bush is seeking another 196 billion dollars for combat in Iraq and Afghanistan through September. 30 of next year. But Democrats, who have the majority in both houses of Congress, say they will wait until next year to debate that request.

REUTERS NC RK2303

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