WASHINGTON – President Bush signed a $162 billion war spending plan on Monday that will pay for fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan until the next president takes office.
The package approved by Congress includes a doubling of GI Bill college benefits for troops and veterans. It also provides a 13-week extension of unemployment benefits and $2.7 billion in emergency flood relief for the Midwest. Bush was to sign the bill Monday morning in the Oval Office.
"American remans a nation at war. There are enemies who intend to harm us. Standing in their way are brave men and women who put on a uniform, who raised their right hand and took an oath to defend our freedom," Bush told reporters in the Oval Office on Monday, shortly after signing the spending bill.
Bush said that is why the country needs to continue supporting its troops, and he thanked Republicans and Democrats who pushed the bill to his offfice.
The spending bill will bring to more than $650 billion the amount Congress has provided for the Iraq war since it started more than five years ago. For operations in Afghanistan, the total is nearly $200 billion, according to congressional officials.
The bill also allots money for an anti-drug effort in Mexico and Latin America, and puts aside $2.5 billion for domestic natural disaster aid, to be used for recovery from the recent Midwest floods and other emergencies.
Bush took time to thank a bipartisan group of lawmakers for their efforts to push forward the GI Bill, including Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the presumptive nominee for the presidency. For the expanded education provision, Bush also thanked Sens. Jim Webb, D.Va.; John Warner, R-Va.; Richard Burr, R-N.C.; and Lindsay Graham, R-S.C.
"This bill shows the American people that even in an election year, Republicans and Democratscan come together to stand behind our troops and support their families," Bush said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.