Bush to seek $100 bln more war funds
By Richard Cowan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush will soon seek about $100 billion in additional emergency funds for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a report on Wednesday by Democratic staffers for two key panels in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Such a large request would mark a rapid escalation in the cost of the Iraq war at a time when public support is plummeting and Bush is looking for new answers to stem violence that threatens to spin out of control. In a broad report criticizing Republicans' fiscal decisions, Democratic staffers on the House Appropriations Committee and House Budget Committee also noted that Congress already had appropriated about $379 billion for the war in Iraq.
"The administration is expected to submit an additional request early next year that will total roughly $100 billion. At least three-quarters of this request will support operations in Iraq," according to the report.
If the White House asks for the $100 billion, it would be significantly less than the $130 billion the Pentagon preliminarily requested recently, according to several accounts.
The emergency funds, which likely would be submitted by Bush to Congress in early February, would be in addition to $70 billion already approved for the two wars in the current fiscal year, which began on October 1.
Senior Democrats, who take control of both houses of Congress next year, have indicated they would support additional funds for U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, even though many want a phased withdrawal to begin in 2007. The $100 billion, if submitted and approved by Congress next year, would be in addition to the record $447 billion the Pentagon is receiving this fiscal year for all military operations.
The House Democrats' report, titled "The Republican Legacy: Bad Budgeting Creates Burdens For Years To Come," said that despite significant increases in the Pentagon's budget, "The war in Iraq has left the U.S. Army's readiness at its lowest level in decades."
"Republicans have spent years handing out billions upon billions of dollars in tax cuts to millionaires while shortchanging our national priorities," said Democratic Rep. David Obey of Wisconsin, the new chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
"It is going to take us years to get back on track." The report, co-authored by aides to Democratic Rep. John Spratt of South Carolina, the incoming chairman of the House Budget Committee, criticized the administration for resorting to emergency spending requests to finance the war instead of budgeting for it on a longer-term basis.
"The administration often does not submit supplemental requests until well after the Army needs the funding to pay for ongoing operations," the report stated. "As a result, the Army is forced to delay certain activities, such as maintenance of equipment, until supplemental appropriations are approved." The White House has defended its use of emergency funding requests, saying it is too difficult to project future war costs in time for annual budget submissions to Congress. It also says it does not want to build such big costs into the Pentagon budget for fear that military brass will come to expect the added funding even after the war ends