Last week Congress passed a bill to finally provide the no-strings funding that America's troops need to win the war. It should not have taken so long to pass. Now that it has, we can finally give our troops the support they need to win the war in Iraq.

The bill is an absolute victory for our troops, especially the $3 billion that will be used to "up-armor" military vehicles. The inclusion of benchmarks for progress in Iraq instead of rigid, strategy-revealing timetables for ending the war is a vast improvement over previous legislation Congress sent the president.

But the legislation also contains some disappointing components that are bad public policy for America. The Democrats' decision to once again use the need to fund our troops in order to raise the minimum wage and thereby cost jobs and economic growth is just plain shameful and demonstrates why Congress must be reformed. Congress should have held a separate up-or-down vote on the minimum wage, not tuck it into a bill that makes important national security determinations for our country. I support our troops and support the military components of the legislation we passed. I do not support Congress' meddling in free markets by artificially increasing the minimum wage. The minimum wage increase will stifle our economy and hurt American businesses -- big and small. But I also recognize that if we don't fully back our soldiers in Iraq, all the economic policy determinations will become secondary -- because we'll be fighting the war here at home.

The bottom line for me was this: While there are parts of this bill that are just plain bad policy, it contains important provisions that are good for our national security, such as defending our service men and women in the field through up-armoring military vehicles. The security of our country and the viability of our state go the heart of my public service, and I am proud to support them. The bill also contains urgently needed funding to 4,400 schools and 615 rural counties near national forests in 39 states. For Idaho, where 60 percent of the land is federally-managed, the extension would protect $23.3 million that schools, counties and road districts need in order to operate. Without the money, the loss of funding would have wiped out as much as half of the local governments' operating budgets.

As with the minimum wage, Congress could have easily passed this domestic spending in a separate bill. It did not. Now, instead of dwelling on it, it's time to move forward. Let's support our troops, give our generals time to do their jobs. And, most importantly, let's commit ourselves - the Congress and the country - to victory in Iraq and the advancement of our national security.