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March 25, 2003
 
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(AP Photo)
Bush Asking for $74.7B for War in Iraq
Bush Asking Congress for $74.7B to Pay for Six Months of Iraq War, Aid and Rebuilding

The Associated Press


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WASHINGTON March 25

President Bush, saying U.S. troops are making steady progress in Iraq, is asking Congress for $74.7 billion to pay for six months of combat, humanitarian aid and rebuilding.

The bulk of the request, $53.4 billion, is for what the White House calls "pure operational activities" moving troops and weapons, the costs of combat, and bringing the soldiers home, according to a Bush administration document obtained by The Associated Press.

Bush refused to provide a cost estimate before the attack on Iraq started, asserting there were too many variables to give a reliable price tag. On Monday, five days into the military campaign, the administration tipped its hand, outlining for congressional budget chiefs his spending plans in the form of a "supplemental" request.

Bush was formally unveiling the new spending package Tuesday at the Pentagon, and asking Congress to pass it by April 11. He planned to praise U.S. forces for what the White House on Tuesday called steady progress in Iraq.

Lawmakers grumbled after a Monday meeting with Bush that they were frozen out of their oversight role on spending, and predicted Bush would soon return asking for more war money.

"This is just the beginning. This is the first down payment, and the American people have the right to know that," said Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va.

"I told the president that I was glad to be invited down today to discuss the supplemental bill, but I said that Congress ought to be in at the start of the process and not just brought in at the end to sign the check," Byrd said.

A senior administration official said the White House kept its estimates close to the vest because it could only have provided projections that varied widely depending on different scenarios, such as Saddam Hussein's surrender versus full-scale war.

The White House concluded that sharing projections privately with lawmakers would have led to leaks, said this official, who sidestepped a question about why the administration did not want the public to know the war cost estimates.

A supplemental appropriations bill, in effect, is Congress' way of writing a check to cover special emergency or unanticipated expenses not provided for through the regular appropriations process.

Bush tacked aid to various other countries onto the budget request most of them regional neighbors like Jordan and Israel.

Turkey was once promised $15 billion to let in U.S. troops for a ground war. Turkey refused, and Bush responded by slashing the aid to $1 billion.

Far-flung nations including the Philippines, Colombia and Afghanistan are among the other aid beneficiaries in the budget measure all tucked under the heading "Global War on Terrorism" on an administration summary sheet. In all, Bush budgets $7.8 billion for humanitarian relief, reconstruction and foreign aid.

Homeland security would get $4.2 billion and coalition allies get $1.4 billion. The staunchest of Bush's partners, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, was meeting Wednesday and Thursday with Bush at Camp David.

Democrats said they were alarmed at Bush's plan to give broad discretion to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on details of how Pentagon funds will be spent. Bush made a similar request last year, which members of both parties forced him to change and to provide details on how the money would be used.

Rep. David Obey of Wisconsin, top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, said Rumsfeld "wasn't appointed to be the U.S. Congress with the power of the purse. ... We're supposed to know what we're doing before we open the purse strings."

The administration hopes for substantial contributions from other countries for reconstruction, but not in the immediate future.

In their meeting Monday afternoon, Bush asked lawmakers not to overspend or load up his budget request up with other items. In military parlance, the measure is known as C.O.W.S. Cost of the War Supplement, a senior official noted, adding that the White House hopes it will not be "milked irresponsibly."

The White House projects that the package would swell the federal budget deficit to close to $400 billion for the fiscal year that ends in September.


photo credit and caption:
President Bush meets with some of his top economic advisers to discuss the U.S. economy in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Monday, March 24, 2003 in Washington. Bush is confronting the costs of the Iraq war in lives and dollars, grieving for lost civilians and soldiers while telling lawmakers it will cost at least $70 billion to fight Baghdad. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Copyright 2003 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

 
 
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