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War funding vote in Senate is expected as early as this week

WASHINGTON -- The Senate is expected to vote as early as this week on whether to cut off money for the Iraq war next year, as well as on a softer measure calling for troops to begin leaving this fall.

Senate majority leader Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, said yesterday the two measures would be offered as amendments to a water projects funding bill being debated this week. While the Senate had planned to take up Iraq legislation this week, Reid had previously been unclear on what specifics members would consider.

The first amendment, backed by Reid and Senator Russ Feingold, would require that combat operations end by March 31, 2008, by cutting off money after that.

The second measure would provide more than $120 billion to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as various domestic projects. It would call for troops to begin leaving Iraq by Oct. 1, but allows the president to waive that requirement.

Passage of the $120 billion in war spending would not allow the Senate to begin negotiating with the House and send President Bush a bill by the end of the month, said Rodell Mollineau, a Reid spokesman. Nevertheless, he added, "these are important votes."

The House voted 221 to 205 last week to approve legislation that would fund the war in two-month installments, giving Congress a chance to cut off money for the war after July. The House measure was considered unlikely to survive in the Senate .