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McCaskill will try to add Walter Reed language to Iraq bill

By Adam Allington, KWMU

St. Louis, MO – The United States Senate began debate Tuesday on a $121 billion supplemental spending package to continue funding for the Iraq War.

In addition to the funding for the military, the package also contains a variety of amendments to fund other projects across the country.

Missouri U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill has introduced an amendment aimed at correcting problems at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

McCaskill says the amendment would fund certain parts of the Dignity for Wounded Warriors Act, which she introduced with Illinois Senator Barack Obama in late February.

"We are taking the parts of the bill that need funding and we are putting the funding in the supplemental, but we would then go ahead and work for the complete passage of the entire legislation, either on its own or through amending another bill later on in the legislative process," McCaskill said Tuesday, in a conference call with reporters.

The McCaskill-Obama amendment would provide $103 million to hire additional mental health counselors and caseworkers.

President Bush has said he would veto the spending package if it contains a timetable for withdrawal of troops from Iraq. Senators on Tuesday rejected an attempt to removed the withdrawal language.

But McCaskill says senators have should vote according to their conscience, not presidential threats.

"We cannot legislate around a threatened veto," she said. "This place would come to a standstill if all the president had to do was threaten a veto and we decided never mind."

Throughout April and May, McCaskill's staff will visit 24 VA hospitals across Missouri to compile a report on the quality of care those facilities are providing.