- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 26, 2003

President Bush's $74.7 billion emergency spending bill for the war won't pay for the total cost of fighting in and then rebuilding Iraq, congressional Democrats said yesterday.
"The American public is rapidly being given the impression this is the bill for the war. It's not. It's the down payment for the war," said Rep. David R. Obey of Wisconsin, the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee.
Democrats explored the possibilities for wartime criticism of the president on domestic and spending issues, particularly on the cost of war and homeland security, with those Democrats who said the numbers came up short.
"They stink," said Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat. "It's going to cost more than that for the war and homeland defense."
And Sen. Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia, the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, said the president is trying to usurp Congress' authority with the request, which in some cases asks for lump allocations the administration would then be able to direct where it wants.
"While I support the funding in this legislation for the men and women engaged in battle in Iraq, I do not support a usurping of constitutional authority or a less than up-front accounting of war costs to the American people," Mr. Byrd said in a statement.
The White House said the supplemental appropriation includes $63 billion for prosecution of the war, about $8 billion in foreign aid and for beginning to rebuild Iraq after war, and $4.2 billion for homeland security.
But Mr. Obey said Defense Department officials have told him they initially wanted closer to $95 billion for the war itself, but were told to calculate only for a 30-day war and mop-up operation, which led to the $63 billion figure.
Mr. Bush, who announced his request yesterday, told Congress to act quickly, and not to load the bill down with nondefense items.
"Business as usual on Capitol Hill can't go on during this time of war," he said. "This supplemental should not be viewed as an opportunity to add spending that is unrelated, unwise, and unnecessary."
Democrats said they will help the bill move quickly and cleanly.
"Who can argue," Mr. Obey said. "But it's all in the definitions. I think additional homeland security is wise, and it's related."
Mr. Obey said he thinks unfunded homeland security needs could top $10 billion.
But Republicans said Democrats' comments are predictable one-upsmanship on spending, with House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Texas Republican, calling them a "partisan political ploy to constantly outbid the president and use homeland security as a political issue."
"Democrats are always asking for more money, with little or no credibility as to why they want it," Mr. DeLay said. "I rely on the president knowing what he needs, rather than some pseudo-expert running around the House or Senate raising the issues of what they think we need."
Republicans generally backed the president's plan, with House Appropriations Committee Chairman C.W. Bill Young, Florida Republican, saying he will try to have the full House vote on the measure by the end of next week, and he promised to work to defeat amendments not related to the war.
"This bill is too important for our troops for it to get bogged down by nonappropriations issues," he said.
Three areas where the president's request faces possible changes are: additional money for homeland security; a package to help failing airlines; and deletions of the administration's requested "flexibility" language.
"The flexibility part, I think, will be a highly controversial part, both in the House and the Senate," Mr. DeLay said. "Congress has always balked at giving too much flexibility. It is our responsibility to watch the purse, and we have a very workable process for reprogramming that has not gotten in the way of any administration's ability to conduct a war."

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