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McConnell Details Spending Bill Fight, Push for War Funds

GOP and Democratic lawmakers have sparred in recent weeks over a massive spending bill that, in addition to funding domestic programs, also seeks to include funds for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., discusses legislative battles on Capitol Hill over spending and energy legislation.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    Now our Newsmaker interview with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky. Gwen Ifill begins with some background.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Republicans may be in the minority in Congress, but they have repeatedly blocked Democrats seeking to curtail the war. It happened again on the Senate floor last night.

    SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), Arizona: For Congress to fail to provide the funds needed by our soldiers in the field, it is inexcusable under any circumstances.

    SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), Massachusetts: What the other side says, "Let's give this administration and this president a blank check to continue it." How long do they want it for? When is enough, enough? That's what they're asking for. That is what they're asking for.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Sixty-seven votes are needed to override presidential vetoes. And because the Republicans control 49 of them, Democrats have lost battles on spending, health care, and the war.

    In its most recent vote last night, the Senate agreed to President Bush's demand for $70 billion in unrestricted funds for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Forty-eight Republicans, but also 21 Democrats, voted for the funding, which had been stripped from the House version of the bill.

    Democrats were frustrated.

    SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD (D), Wisconsin: The Senate needs to address the concerns and demands of our constituents, who more than a year ago voted for a change in congressional leadership in large measure because of the debacle in Iraq.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    But Republicans argued the situation on the ground in Iraq has improved, with attacks on U.S. troops and civilian casualties both down.

    SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R), Alabama: The last thing we need to do is to take action to pull the rug out from under the fabulous men and women who are serving us at great risk this very moment, whose highest and deepest wish is to be successful, to execute the policy we gave them by a three-fourths-plus vote several years ago.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    As Congress prepares to adjourn for the year, the Republican minority has also claimed victory in their efforts to amend or derail Democratic priorities on taxes, collective bargaining, and the minimum wage.