Bush sends war funds request to skeptical Congress

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WASHINGTON, Oct 22 (Reuters) US President George W Bush asked Congress today for 189.3 billion dollars to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, another huge request that faces deep skepticism from lawmakers opposed to prolonging the Iraq conflict.

Bush's request covers day-to-day military operation and is for fiscal 2008, which began on Oct. 1, congressional aides said.

House of Representatives appropriators said earlier this month they would not even consider the war funding request until early 2008, and that they wanted to link it to a plan to bring US combat troops home.

But they left open the possibility of paying for the war through an interim measure called a ''bridge fund.'' In announcing the latest war request, Bush prodded Congress to pass the request swiftly and without conditions.

''They should pass a good, clean bill as soon as possible,'' Bush told reporters at an event where he was flanked by veterans and family members of fallen soldiers.

''Congress should not go home for the holidays while our troops are still waiting for the funds they need,'' he added.

In the Senate, Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert Byrd, a West Virginia Democrat, has warned there would be no ''blank checks'' written for the next phase of operations in Iraq.

The Pentagon had asked for 141.7 billion dollars for what it calls the global war on terror earlier this year. In July it increased the request by 5.3 billion dollars to procure additional Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles, which have V-shaped hulls to disperse the impact of bomb blasts.

The documents the administration sent to Congress today asked for another 42.3 billion dollars in defense spending for Iraq and Afghanistan, making the total 189.3 billion dollars.

The administration's request was outlined in testimony on Capitol Hill by Defense Secretary Robert Gates last month. It is in addition to about 600 billion dollars already approved for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Reuters AK VP0052

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