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Republicans, Democrats Bruised From Iraq Spending Deal Despite Celebrations Of Victory

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Democrats may have lost their fight with President Bush over a timetable for ending the war in Iraq, but they won billions of dollars for farm aid, hurricane victims, veterans and health care for poor children.

After Bush vetoed a $124 billion war funding bill containing $21 billion in unrequested funds _ labeled by the White House as ``excessive and extraneous'' _ White House negotiators signed off on a $120 billion measure containing four-fifths of the additional money.

Congress planned to send Bush the new bill by Friday. The House has scheduled a vote on it Thursday. Although White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said the administration had not seen the final language, aides and lawmakers said administration officials had agreed to its general terms.

The final bill has yet to be released. Lawmakers and staff aides detailed an agreement that would provide about $3 billion in long-sought farm disaster aid, almost $2 billion for veterans medical care and $3.1 billion to implement a 2005 round of military base closures.

All told, there's $17 billion worth of add-ons that Bush didn't seek. Some GOP conservatives were miffed.

``This president and this party have got to rededicate themselves to fiscal discipline,'' said Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind.

Republicans took solace that spending they considered especially unnecessary had been dropped, including $400 million for low-income energy subsidies _ hardly a priority now that winter is over _ and $663 million to prepare for a possible bird flu epidemic.

More than $600 million to ease shortfalls in the popular State Children's Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP, was included. A $2.3 billion package of homeland security funding was sliced by half. More than $400 million in payments to rural counties hurt by cutbacks in federal logging stayed in the measure.

There's also additional money to improve troop readiness, boost health care for U.S. troops and purchase vehicles that are less vulnerable to mines and roadside bombs.

Long gone is much-mocked money for peanut and sugar beet farmers, Capitol tour guides, avocado and orange growers, spinach producers and grants to Denver and Minneapolis, the host cities for next year's political conventions. Those funds drew scorn from the White House and were dropped from the earlier war funding bill vetoed by Bush.

``We're glad that we were able to strip out the most egregious parts,'' said Rep. Adam Putnam, R-Fla.

The White House grudgingly agreed to accept the added spending in exchange for Democrats dropping restrictions on military operations.

In fact, Democrats initially offered to strip all of the additional money beyond Bush's $103 billion request in exchange for a timetable to end the war in Iraq. But the White House said no; the timetable was dropped and most of the money stayed.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey, D-Wis., a top negotiator, said any unhappiness among Republicans over the additional money pales when compared to disappointment from Democrats forced to drop the Iraq timetable.

``I'm sure they are (unhappy),'' Obey said, ``but not nearly as unhappy as we are that the administration won't encounter reality on this stupid war.''

The $120 billion measure would fund the war through September as Bush requested and would not demand troops leave Iraq by a certain date. Nor does it restrict the deployment of units based on readiness standards. However, the bill does threaten to withhold reconstruction assistance if Baghdad fails to make progress on political and security reforms, although the president could waive that restriction.

Announcement of the deal prompted a menacing threat by Moveon.Org, a grass-roots anti-war group that rose to prominence in last year's elections. In a statement released Wednesday, the group said its members were calling to pull out all the stops, including possibly targeting the seats of Democrats who ran on anti-war platforms but vote for the deal.

``This is a key test vote on whether your representative is serious about ending the war,'' MoveOn wrote in an e-mail to lawmakers.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared victory but indicated she will likely vote against it because it doesn't have a timetable for troop withdrawals. Other House Democrats said they, too, would oppose it.

``I'm not voting for anything unless it ends the war,'' said Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif.

In order to secure the bill's passage, House leaders are planning to orchestrate two votes on Thursday. The first vote will be on war funding, while the second will be to approve the extra money.

While Pelosi, Waters and other like-minded Democrats are expected to vote against the first amendment on war funds, GOP members will likely make up for the losses. On the second vote, it is anticipated Democrats will be unified in their support for the measure and overcome GOP objections to the extra spending.

Under the plan, the Senate would receive a single bill and cast its own vote by Friday.

Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., as well as Sens. Hillary Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois, both leading presidential contenders, declined to say how they intended to vote on the measure. Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., also a presidential contender, said he would oppose it.
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