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March 24, 2003

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Bush Expected to Propose $75B War Budget
Bush Expected to Propose Spending $75 Billion for War, Anti-Terror Efforts

The Associated Press

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President Bush is expected to ask Congress for about $75 billion to pay for the war with Iraq, assuming the war will last about 30 days, and to strengthen counterterrorism efforts at home, lawmakers and congressional aides said Monday.

The money measure, which the president planned to describe to congressional leaders he invited to the White House, is dominated by $62.6 billion for the Department of Defense. It is based on an assumption that the U.S.-led effort to oust Iraqi President Saddam Hussein takes 30 days of combat, said aides.

The request was also expected to include up to $3 billion for domestic security, chiefly for police and other so-called first responders. And it will contain about $8 billion for aid to Israel, Afghanistan and other U.S. allies, a down payment on humanitarian aid for Iraq and for rebuilding the country, and money to increase security for American diplomats.

At Monday's meeting, Bush was expected to ask congressional leaders to send him a completed version of the bill by April 11, when lawmakers are scheduled to begin their Easter recess.

Though lawmakers are eager to demonstrate their support for U.S. troops, Democrats and many Republicans are expected to have problems with parts of the proposal.

Of the $62.6 billion for the Defense Department, the administration is proposing setting aside $59.9 billion in an emergency reserve fund that the Pentagon could largely spend at its own discretion with limited input from Congress, said Democrats who said they were familiar with a preliminary version of the proposal.

"We need to provide every single dime the troops need, but I do think we need to know where it's going and for what purpose," said Rep. David Obey of Wisconsin, top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee.

Obey said that Defense Secretary Donald 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."

Democrats were also expected to complain that Bush's request had only $500 million in humanitarian aid for Iraq and $1.7 billion to rebuild the country. Prior congressional and private estimates suggested the long-range expenses for both those efforts would be many times those amounts, though administration officials are hoping allied nations will help with the financing.

Democrats said they were also unhappy that the measure lacks additional money for other domestic programs such as tightening security at U.S. ports, borders, dams and facilities that generate radioactive materials.

Bush was preparing to send the Republican-controlled Congress his request just as lawmakers write a $2.2 trillion budget for 2004, which so far has excluded any funds for a war.

Democrats have complained repeatedly that the fiscal framework which controls new tax cuts proposed by Bush cannot be written without knowing what the war will cost. Some Democrats believe the information might undercut support for Bush's proposed tax reductions.

The administration had refused to provide its war estimate until now, arguing that there were too many uncertainties on the battlefield.

The requested defense funds will include $10.4 billion for the call-up of Reserves and National Guard troops and extra salary paid to troops in combat, said one congressional aide speaking on condition of anonymity.

Also included for the Pentagon will be $44.6 billion for operations and maintenance, and $6.5 billion for purchasing new munitions and for research and development.

Foreign aid will include $1 billion in grants plus federal backing for up to $9 billion in guaranteed loans for Israel; $1.1 billion for Jordan; less than $1 billion for Egypt and other funds for countries including Oman and Bahrain.

Afghanistan would get $400 million for humanitarian aid.

The measure might contain $1 billion for Turkey, though those funds might be omitted from a final version of the bill. That country has balked at letting the United States base troops there for an invasion of Iraq from the north, but has allowed some U.S. use of its air space.

The request will also include $500 million for the FBI, plus funds for the Coast Guard.

So far, the administration has decided to exclude aid for U.S. airlines, which have been lobbying Congress for assistance to help make up for business lost because of terrorism and the war with Iraq.

Among the chief proponents of such assistance has been House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., whose state is home to financially troubled United Airlines.

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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