Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The White House is seeking a further $70 billion from Congress to continue funding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for the 2009 fiscal year, the Pentagon said yesterday, provoking another potential showdown with Capitol Hill Democrats over war funding.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters that the amount would help cover operational costs until early next year.

“We’ll send up the fiscal year ‘09 budget [next Monday],” Mr. Whitman said. “It will have a request for an emergency allowance to support activities related to the global war on terror into 2009 … in the amount of $70 billion.”

The money, included as part of the administration’s 2009 budget request, is an “emergency allowance” to finance operations beginning in early October, at the start of the next budget year.

Some Democrats are expected to retaliate if the budget request includes only a partial funding of the ongoing war effort, rather than a definite amount for the entire fiscal year. Other Democrats have said that the military has enough war funding until Gen. David H. Petraeus, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, returns to testify before Congress in April or May.

Congressional sources told The Washington Times, however, that the Democrats’ push for a war-funding bill that covers the whole year will put troops’ lives at risk and would hamper the Defense Department’s flexibility in responding to changing circumstances in the war on terror.

“The Democrats are delusional if they expect to meet the funding required for the Iraqi theater of operation all at once,” said a high-level Republican source close to the talks. “By that approach we’d be incapable of addressing any future problems in the region. This approach, being suggested by congressional Democrats, is going to put our military commanders in a very bad position.”

Meanwhile, the fight over emergency war funding for fiscal 2008 is likely to continue. The president asked for $196.4 billion for combat operations in the 2008 budget year, which began in October. After a long battle among politicians wrangling over the cost, the Defense Department received less than half of what the president sought: $70 billion for general operations and nearly $17 billion for Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles.

The president is asking Congress to “meet its responsibilities,” the White House said yesterday before the State of the Union speech, in which the president was expected to urge Congress to fully fund the war.

“The president appreciates Congress passing a down payment on funding for our troops without imposing artificial conditions,” the release stated. “Now, Congress needs to pass the remainder of this funding so our troops get the funding they need as soon as possible to do the job they have been asked to do.”

This article is based in part on wire-service reports.

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