- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 9, 2003

Top Republicans, led by President Bush himself, yesterday turned back efforts to make Iraqis pay to rebuild their country, as the House Appropriations Committee approved an additional $86.9 billion to help create a Muslim democracy in the Middle East.

The measure still faces additional hurdles on the House floor next week and more in the Senate. But if the bill, which passed the committee on a 47-14 vote, succeeds, Americans will shoulder the entire burden for continued military occupation there, as well as for rebuilding Iraqi roads, water systems and hospitals.

“We have been led into a pre-emptive war that has left us isolated from our allies and left us holding the bag financially, militarily and politically for the reconstruction of Iraq,” said Rep. David R. Obey, Wisconsin Democrat and ranking member on the committee.

Mr. Obey accused the administration of duplicity and said White House hopes of eliminating terrorism by democratizing Iraq was dreamed up by “political scientist romantics.”

Both Democratic and Republican opponents of the measure say it is particularly galling that the bill doesn’t call for Iraq to repay the United States while countries such as France, Germany and Russia, which loaned $200 billion to Saddam Hussein’s government, stand to be repaid.

Rep. Zach Wamp, Tennessee Republican, had written an amendment aimed at recouping half of the U.S. costs for rebuilding Iraq.

But at yesterday’s committee meeting, Mr. Wamp withdrew his amendment after Mr. Bush made a personal plea Wednesday that saddling Iraq with even more debt than it already has would undermine the war on terrorism.

“The financial cost of this is going to be very substantial,” said Rep. Jim Kolbe, Arizona Republican, who supported the appropriation. “But they are small, I would add, compared to the cost of failure. We must not be faced 20 years in the future with the knowledge that we removed two tyrants [in Iraq and Afghanistan] only to leave vacuums into which dozens of tyrants rise up in their place.”

The administration and its supporters say that later this month Spain will host a conference attended by all the countries that lent money to the Hussein regime. Mr. Bush hopes to convince those countries to forgive at least some of those loans. Top Republicans on the Appropriations Committee said yesterday that structuring the new spending as loans would undermine the administration’s ability to erase those other loans.

Still, some — including otherwise loyal Republicans — were incensed.

Rep. Virgil H. Goode Jr., Virginia Republican, introduced an amendment — which was handily defeated — to strip out the entire $19.9 billion directed at rebuilding efforts.

“Let me tell you, the history of foreign aid is not good in this country,” said Mr. Goode, noting the billions of dollars the United States has spent supporting regimes such as the Taliban in Afghanistan and even, at one point, Saddam himself.

“Look at the billions that we spent on the shah of Iran,” he said. “What did that change?”

“I fully support the war. I supported the president, and if he asked me to vote for the war again, I’d vote with him all the way,” Mr. Goode said. “But I don’t like all this spending on foreign aid.”

Rep. Jerry Lewis, California Republican, said the history Mr. Goode remembers is exactly the history we mustn’t repeat.

“We’re going to have ongoing problems in this region,” he said. “We should not leave vacuums like Afghanistan. These are the seeds of terrorism.”

So far, both the House and Senate versions of the bill are nearly identical to the request made last month by Mr. Bush.

House Republicans stripped out some requested funding, including $50 million for Iraqi traffic police, $300 million for two new prisons, 40 new trash trucks and the creation of a ZIP code system.

Added was additional funding for body armor for troops and “portable jammers” to stymie the remote controls sometimes used to detonate bombs.

The entire House is expected to take up yesterday’s bill on Wednesday, where it will likely face some of the same amendments defeated by the committee.

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved the Senate version of the bill two weeks ago, and it’s now pending on the Senate floor. Senate leaders have set an Oct. 17 deadline to vote on a final version.

All the 14 panel members of the committee who voted against the package were Democrats: Reps. Marion Berry of Arkansas; James E. Clyburn of South Carolina; Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut; Sam Farr of California; Maurice D. Hinchey of New York, Jesse Jackson Jr. of Illinois; Marcy Kaptur of Ohio; Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick of Michigan; James P. Moran of Virginia; Mr. Obey; John W. Olver of Massachusetts; Ed Pastor of Arizona; Jose E. Serrano of New York; and Chaka Fattah of Pennsylvania.

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