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  Daily Briefing  
September 2, 2003

Lawmakers could push emergency Iraq funding this month

By Peter Cohn, CongressDaily

Congress returns Tuesday and Wednesday from the August recess amid vocal concerns from key lawmakers and administration officials that reconstruction money for war-torn Iraq is sorely lacking, and amid speculation that the White House will submit an additional emergency funding request this month.

But details on the request have been short, including a dollar amount, GOP aides said. "We've not been given any guidance at this time," one aide said. However, increasing pressure from key lawmakers and the White House's top man in Iraq could persuade the administration to send a stopgap Iraq supplemental request to Congress this month, another aide said.

An increasingly vocal campaign by L. Paul Bremer, who heads the civilian authority in Iraq, and lawmakers such as Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Richard Lugar, R-Ind., have stepped up pressure on the administration to consider sending Congress a stopgap spending bill to pay for infrastructure needs such as water, electricity and hospitals. Published reports over the recess indicated the price tag could be as high as $3 billion.

An OMB spokesman could not be reached for comment Tuesday, and, when asked last week, a White House spokeswoman declined to comment. Lawmakers and administration officials have said a multibillion dollar fiscal 2004 Iraq supplemental would be forthcoming later this year or early 2004 to cover both military and civilian reconstruction needs. Administration officials have said military costs in Iraq are running at just under $4 billion a month. Iraq reconstruction was earmarked at $2.5 billion as part of the $79 billion fiscal 2003 supplemental enacted earlier this year.

A senior GOP aide said there were internal White House differences over how to proceed with additional funding—Bremer and State Department allies favor a stopgap spending measure while OMB is inclined to wait for the larger fiscal 2004 Iraq supplemental—and that it was "unclear" whether there would be a separate Iraq supplemental this month or one larger package down the road.

The aide noted that other pending legislative business, including finishing the regular fiscal 2004 appropriations bills, would make it difficult to complete an Iraq supplemental before a tentative Veterans' Day adjournment target. It might be possible to include the money in the regular fiscal 2004 Defense spending bill currently in conference. But the aide said that would leave the measure open to points of order from budget hawks on the floor, since the additional Iraq funds had not been considered separately.

Meanwhile, the Senate Tuesday is debating a $472.2 billion fiscal 2004 Labor-HHS measure, of which $137.6 billion is discretionary spending, which leaders aim to complete early next week. Democrats, who are considering dozens of amendments, said it was unlikely the Labor-HHS bill could be finished this week because voting would not begin until Wednesday and several members are likely to be absent due to the Democratic presidential candidate debate Thursday evening. Democrats are expected to wage major battles over the bill's education funding and the administration's proposal to restrict overtime pay.

The Senate Appropriations Committee will consider fiscal 2004 VA-HUD, Commerce-Justice-State, Transportation-Treasury and District of Columbia funding bills Thursday. The House this week aims to complete its Transportation-Treasury and District of Columbia appropriations bills, wrapping up work on all 13 of its fiscal 2004 spending bills. However congressional leaders are preparing for the likelihood of continuing resolutions to fund the government after Oct. 1, as well as an omnibus to wrap together fiscal 2004 conference reports not finished by then.

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  • Cost of rebuilding Iraq is rising   (08/28/03)
  • Only a few months to turn Iraq around, former Defense official says   (08/07/03)
  • Lawmakers seek to overhaul postwar reconstruction efforts   (07/21/03)
  • Senate panel moves military appropriations bill to floor   (07/10/03)
  • Iraq reconstruction chief has $7 billion to spend   (06/18/03)

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