WASHINGTON — Congressional Republicans killed a provision in an Iraq war funding bill that would have put the United States on record against the permanent basing of U.S. military facilities in that country, a lawmaker and congressional aides said Friday.
The $94.5-billion emergency spending bill, which includes $65.8 billion to continue waging wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, is expected to be approved by Congress next week and sent to President Bush for his signature.
As the measure was passed by the House, the Pentagon would have been prohibited from using any of the funds for any military basing rights agreement with Iraq.
A similar amendment passed by the Senate said the Pentagon could not use the next round of war funding to "establish permanent United States military bases in Iraq, or to exercise United States control over the oil infrastructure or oil resources of Iraq."
The Bush administration has said that it does not want to place any artificial timelines on a U.S. presence in Iraq and that it wants to begin withdrawing troops when Iraqi security forces are better able to protect their country. But it has not ruled out permanent bases.
Senate aides said Republican staffers removed the provisions from the bills before House and Senate negotiators convened this week in a late-night work session to write a compromise spending bill.
Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.) opposed efforts to reinsert the language.
Although the Pentagon does not necessarily plan to use any of the emergency funds to establish a permanent military presence in Iraq, congressional Democrats wanted Congress to be on record against such a long-term presence.
Doing so, they argued, could help overcome concern in the Middle East that the United States intended to control the region militarily.
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland) said, "The perception that the U.S. intends to occupy Iraq indefinitely is fueling the insurgency and making our troops more vulnerable."