St. Petersburg Times
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Bush seeks $75-billion for war effort

The money is intended to cover combat costs, as well as the beginning of a postwar occupation.

Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 25, 2003

WASHINGTON -- President Bush will ask Congress on Wednesday for nearly $75-billion to pay for the war against Iraq and to help U.S. allies in the region.

Analysts predicted the amount would likely be a down payment on a much larger total to conquer, occupy, and rebuild the Persian Gulf nation.

The $74.7-billion, which would be added to the current budget, would cover the cost of the war and the beginning of a postwar occupation, a senior administration official told the New York Times. The amount assumes six months of U.S. involvement, including deployment, combat, and postwar operations.

The additional spending would swell the budget deficit to nearly $400-billion in fiscal 2003, the official acknowledged.

Rep. C.W. Bill Young, the Largo Republican who chairs the Appropriations Committee, met with Bush on Monday afternoon and said he assured the president that he "will move this supplemental request through the House as quickly as I could."

Young said he will keep the bill free of pork projects so it can pass quickly. "I'm going to do my best to keep it completely clean. I don't want it to be used as a vehicle for other nonessential spending."

Young said Bush told him, "The war is going according to plan, maybe even better."

Democrats complained that the administration waited to put a price tag on the war until after Congress crafted most of the details of its budget resolution, a blueprint for spending and taxing levels in the next fiscal year.

The Bush administration is pushing $726-billion in tax cuts over the next 10 years, a proposal Democrats say the nation cannot afford when it is at war.

"The bill for this unprovoked attack is just starting to come in, and the American people should start worrying that the administration has lost control of the costs," said Rep. Dennis Kucinich, an antiwar Ohio Democrat who is exploring a presidential run.

But Congress, eager to show support for troops abroad, is expected to approve spending for the mission it authorized last fall.

"I expect that both Republicans and Democrats will support this legislation by overwhelming margins," said House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill.

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 is Hastert, whose state is home to financially troubled United Airlines.

Rep. John Spratt of South Carolina, the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee, said that the amount Congress approved "could very well be more."

Spratt said the White House request assumed 30 to 60 days of combat.

The $74.7-billion includes $62.6-billion to prosecute the war, including replacing cruise missiles and other military equipment.

About $7.8-billion would be set aside for international aid, including $5-billion to compensate for the economic damage faced by U.S. allies because of the war.

The bill would apportion $4.2-billion to homeland security efforts, including protection of federal buildings and $2-billion in aid to states and localities. The amount also includes $500-million for the Department of Justice, largely for the FBI.

The White House does not anticipate a need for another funding request to cover war-related costs this year, the official said.

Analysts in and out of government estimate the cost of the Iraq mission will reach as much as $600-billion over the next decade.

An analysis released Monday by Taxpayers for Common Sense, a group dedicated to cutting government waste, estimated that combat and rebuilding efforts could cost $110-billion this year alone, assuming that the war ends before May and humanitarian aid begins soon afterward.

-- Information from the Boston Globe, Dallas Morning News and Times staff writer Bill Adair contributed to this report.

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