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Senate finalizes war funding bill

  • Story Highlights
  • $165 billion bill funds the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan into early 2009
  • Measure includes money for a new GI Bill, extended unemployment benefits
  • Bill also provides disaster assistance for Midwest flooding
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Senate gave final approval Thursday to a war funding measure that includes money for a new GI Bill and other domestic measures.

The Senate approved the war funding bill after Democrats and Republicans reached a compromise.

The $165 billion bill funds the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan into early 2009 with no restrictions.

It also includes extended unemployment benefits and the expansion of the GI Bill, two key domestic priorities of Democrats.

The bill also provides more than $2 billion in disaster assistance for areas in the Midwest dealing with massive flooding.

The House passed the bill last week after Democrats and Republicans reached a compromise that satisfied Bush administration officials. It now goes to the White House for the president's signature.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, said the measure met demands from both sides.

"I hope that President Bush recognizes that our needs at home deserve at least the same attention as those we pay for abroad," Reid said after the vote.

Reid said the funding measures would protect seniors, families and those with disabilities from Medicaid cuts while doubling the president's request for military construction, veterans hospitals and international aid.

President Bush and many congressional Republicans had resisted extending unemployment benefits, but the compromise bill includes another 13 weeks of assistance. Democrats had been pushing for extending benefits to laid-off workers as unemployment rates continue to rise.

Democrats also got Republican support for a college scholarship program for U.S. troops, known as a "new GI Bill."

The program expands education benefits for veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan by paying for four-year scholarships.

"At a time when 2 million men and women have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan and when our troops have had to endure multiple deployments, stop-loss policies, insufficient equipment and an unclear strategy, giving them the opportunity to fuel our future economy is the least we can do," Reid said.

Sen. Jim Webb, D-Virginia, a driving force behind the GI Bill, called the passage a "historic step" for the men and women who have served since September 11, 2001.

"There are no politics here," he said. "This is about taking care of the people who have taken care of us. I am looking forward to the president living up to his word and signing this legislation at his earliest opportunity."

All About U.S. House of RepresentativesIraq WarAfghanistan War

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