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Bush signs $82 billion war funds bill


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The Senate approved the spending bill Tuesday. The House approved it last week.
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush has signed an $82 billion spending bill to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and other projects, including border enforcement and tsunami relief, the White House said Wednesday.

The Senate approved the measure Tuesday evening on a 100-0 vote. The House of Representatives approved the measure last week.

The $76 billion in war spending included in that measure drives the costs of the wars, along with worldwide antiterrorist efforts, to more than $300 billion since the September 11, 2001, al Qaeda attacks on New York and Washington.

Most of that has been spent on the two-year-old war in Iraq.

"I applaud the Congress for its strong bipartisan support for our troops and our continued effort to win the war on terror," Bush said Tuesday after the Senate vote. "New democracies are taking root in Iraq and Afghanistan, and America is proud to stand with them."

In addition to money for combat operations, the measure includes $5.7 billion to train Iraqi security forces.

Sen. Edward Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat, called that "a key element of a successful strategy to stabilize Iraq and withdraw American forces."

"Another important part of this bill will be the periodic report it requires on the progress our forces are making in Iraq," Kennedy said in a floor statement this week, according to prepared remarks on his Web site.

"I'm encouraged that the administration is finally being required by this bill to tell Congress how many U.S. troops will be necessary in Iraq through the end of 2006," he said.

"We must do everything we can to support our armed forces," Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said in a written statement Tuesday. "This legislation guarantees that our military personnel will have the equipment and resources they need to get the job done."

The package Bush signed also includes provisions increasing the death benefit for U.S. service members from $12,000 to $100,000; raising the maximum life insurance benefit for service members from $250,000 to $400,000; and authorizing $100,000 payments for troops who lose a limb or suffer some other traumatic injury.

It also prevents states from issuing driver's licenses to illegal immigrants, stiffens asylum laws and provides money to finish a long-stalled fence on the border between California and Mexico.

The immigration and asylum provision were a source of controversy and debate.

The package commits $656 million in aid to Indian Ocean nations hit hard by the December 26 earthquake and tsunami that killed nearly 170,000 people.

It also authorizes spending $4.2 billion on other international projects, including $592 million to build a new U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.


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