Bush seeks $46 billion boost for war

President Bush on Monday upped his supplemental war funding request by $45.9 billion, bringing the total tab for Iraq and Afghanistan to $196.4 billion for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1.

He also called on Democrats to set aside their opposition to the war to approve the money for the sake of U.S. troops.

"I recognize their position, and they should make their views heard," Bush said Monday afternoon. "But they ought to make sure our troops have what it takes to succeed. Our men and women on the front lines should not be caught in the middle of partisan disagreements in Washington, D.C."

House Democratic leaders have said they have no intention of acting on the request this year unless Bush agrees to change direction of his Iraq policy, but they might approve a smaller "bridge" fund to tide over the troops until Congress acts on the remainder of the request next spring. Senate Democratic leaders have not yet said whether they plan to act on the full request this year.

Most of the additional money, $42.3 billion, is for the Pentagon and is for the most part unchanged from what Defense Secretary Robert Gates proposed to the Senate Appropriations Committee last month.

Monday's request included nearly $1.8 billion for health and other benefits for soldiers and their families, including $504 million for medical care for soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan; $416 million to accelerate the transition from Walter Reed Army Medical Center, scheduled for closure in 2011, to the Bethesda medical facility and a new Army hospital at Fort Belvoir in Virginia. The package also includes $840 million for enhanced benefits for service members and their families affected by longer-than-expected deployments.

When Congress acts, it is likely to support the soldiers' health portion of the bill, as well as the rest of the larger troop-funding package, including money for mine-resistant vehicles and other protections against roadside bombs, funds to replace worn-out and damaged equipment and to begin the staged withdrawal of five Brigade Combat Teams by July.

Congress is likely to give greater scrutiny of funding for the State Department and foreign-aid activities. Bush on Monday asked for another $3.6 billion, bringing the total request to $6.9 billion, which is likely to become fodder for Democrats in their push for greater domestic spending.

"President Bush has made his priorities clear: health care for children is too expensive, but more of the same in Iraq is worth billions in debt," House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel of Illinois said in a statement.

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