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This is IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.
This week in Washington, Congress approved a war spending bill that President Bush said he would sign. There was debate on an immigration bill. And hearings continued into why the Justice Department dismissed eight federal prosecutors last year.
|The United States Capitol|
The Iraq spending bill was approved Thursday after majority Democrats dropped their demand to set a date for a troop withdrawal. But the bill does threaten to cut economic aid if the Iraqi government fails to make progress on political and security reforms.
Democrats say they will renew their fight for a withdrawal plan in the next war-financing bill.
The one just approved contains one hundred twenty billion dollars in spending. Ninety-five billion of that will pay for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan through September. Billions will go to unrelated projects at home.
Also included in the bill is the first increase in almost ten years in the federal minimum wage. Many of the lowest-paid workers are immigrants. And on Monday the Senate opened debate on an immigration bill.
Supporters of immigration reform, including President Bush, say the bill is needed to help fix a broken system. An estimated twelve million immigrants are in the United States illegally.
Proposals include stronger border security, a temporary worker program and a path for undocumented workers to become legal.
One proposal would create two-year renewable visas for foreign temporary workers. On Wednesday the Senate voted to cut the proposed number of temporary workers in half, to two hundred thousand a year.
Some groups say the bill would separate families of immigrant workers. Labor unions worry that the bill would create a new class of poorly paid migrants with few legal protections. Employers are divided over proposed changes that could also affect highly skilled foreign workers. And some critics say the bill would reward people who entered the country illegally.
The Senate is expected to end debate on the immigration bill in the middle of June. At that time senators could take a rare no-confidence vote in Attorney General Alberto Gonzales over the Justice Department dismissals.
On Wednesday a committee in the House questioned a former Gonzales aide who worked with the White House. Monica Goodling said she "crossed the line" by bringing political considerations into some hiring decisions at the department. But she said she had only a limited part in the replacement of United States attorneys.
Democrats said her statements raised new questions about dismissals that they suggest were made for political reasons. But a Republican lawmaker said there were no surprises and no evidence of corruption.
Democrats and some Republicans want Alberto Gonzales to resign. President Bush says he supports him and hopes Congress will move quickly to finish hearings that he calls "political theater."
And that's IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English, written by Brianna Blake. I'm Steve Ember.