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US Congress Mulling Reconstruction Funding For Iraq January 25, 2007

Posted by notapundit in Congress, US News, World News.
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WASHINGTON (AP)–Emboldened by a successful first vote against U.S. President George W. Bush’s Iraq war policy, Senate Democrats said Thursday they were wary of the administration’s anticipated $1.2 billion request for reconstruction there.

Sen. Joseph Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he wants assurances from the administration that the money would not fuel corruption or the insurgency in Iraq.

A key piece of Bush’s new strategy is increasing reconstruction efforts, with the U.S. pledging another $1.2 billion and the Iraqi government designating $10 billion. As part of the plan, Bush is dispatching 21,500 additional troops to Iraq to bolster security so reconstruction efforts are not stalled.

“I hope we will hear today some concrete details on why these funds will achieve better results than we’ve been able to achieve before,” Biden said.

The State Department has spent nearly $15 billion in reconstruction already and “as you know better than I do, the results aren’t pretty,” the Delaware Democrat added.

Testifying before the committee was David Satterfield, the State Department’s senior adviser on Iraq, and Brig. Gen. Michael Jones, a Middle East adviser on political and military affairs to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Satterfield said the State Department is expanding the number of reconstruction teams sent to Baghdad and the western Anbar province and sending some 300 additional civilian personnel to Iraq. But, he added, much of the heavy lifting must be accomplished by the Iraqi government.

“It is not a question of putting them in the lead or encouraging them to take the lead. It’s a recognition of reality,” he told the panel.

Sen. Richard Lugar, the top Republican on the panel, said he wants regular progress reports that are much more detailed than previously provided to Congress. Lugar announced Wednesday he had serious reservations that Bush’s new Iraq plan would work.

“Overall, the results have been disappointing to the Iraqi people, to Congress, and to American taxpayers,” said Lugar, R-Ind., referring to reconstruction efforts.

Biden’s committee passed 12-9 a resolution Wednesday that dismissed Bush’s plans to increase troops in Iraq as “not in the national interest.” The vote on the nonbinding measure was largely along party lines, with Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska being the sole Republican on the committee offering his support.

The full Senate is expected to vote on the measure next week.

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