CRAWFORD, Texas (AFP) — US President George W. Bush signed Wednesday a 555 billion dollar catch-all budget bill for 2008 that includes 70 billion dollars for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars without any timeline for troop withdrawal.
Bush had threatened the Democratic-controlled Congress with a veto for the bill if overall spending was much more than Bush had asked or if it contained targets for a troop pullout from Iraq.
But the president said the bill funds the federal government "within the reasonable and responsible spending levels I proposed -- without raising taxes and without the most objectionable policy changes considered by the Congress."
"This law provides a down payment for the resources our troops need, without arbitrary timelines for withdrawal," said Bush, who signed the omnibus bill aboard Air Force One while flying to his Texas ranch for a year-end holiday.
The bill provides funding for federal agencies during the fiscal year ending in late September and funds the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for part of the year.
Bush, who had originally asked for 196 billion dollars for Iraq and Afghanistan, urged Congress to "quickly take action next year to provide the remainder of the funding needed by our troops."
The White House made its war funding request in February and the 2008 budget was supposed to pass in October, but the its approval was delayed by a struggle between the White House and Democrats over Iraq.
Democrats, who took over the US Congress in November 2006 elections fueled by anger at the war in Iraq, tried without success to use their power of the purse to impose a timetable for withdrawal from the strife-torn country, where nearly 4,000 US troops have died since the March 2003 invasion.
Under Bush's veto threats, the budget bill was finally approved before Christmas with a partial funding for the war and no timeline.
While Bush approved the overall budget, he criticized the thousands of "earmarks" -- specific spending allocations for projects and programs favored by specific members of Congress, often for their home states and districts -- included in it.
"I am disappointed in the way the Congress compiled this legislation, including abandoning the goal I set early this year to reduce the number and cost of earmarks by half," he said.
"These projects are not funded through a merit-based process and provide a vehicle for wasteful government spending."
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