W.House Assembles Iraq Package, May Seek $65
Wed September 3,
2003 07:29 PM ET
By Adam Entous
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Bush administration is assembling an
ambitious spending plan for postwar Iraq, with preliminary estimates
it may seek up to $65 billion in coming weeks to bolster military
operations and reconstruction, people familiar with the matter said
Senior White House officials told key members of Congress they
would propose the emergency spending package "sooner rather than
later," most likely before President Bush attends the annual session
of the U.N. General Assembly in New York on Sept. 23, sources said.
The proposed emergency budget request would be a dramatic change
of course for the administration, which had not planned to ask
Congress for additional money until late this year.
"We need to do this now. They're working on the numbers as we
speak," Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said after
meetings at the White House.
The White House declined to talk about numbers and insisted no
decisions had been made.
"We are still assessing the needs and listening to (the top U.S.
administrator in Iraq Paul) Bremer and the commanders in the field
about what the exact needs are. We are still working to determine
the precise costs and we will work closely with Congress once we
know the precise costs," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.
Sources said the administration was discussing a range of funding
options, the most costly of which would provide $55 billion to the
Pentagon for military operations in Iraq and elsewhere.
In addition, the White House is considering asking Congress for
$10 billion to expedite reconstruction efforts, from repairing
Iraq's electricity grid to building roads.
The U.S. Agency for International Development could receive up to
$2.7 billion, sources said.
The reconstruction package would also include an estimated $1
billion for Afghanistan, which, like Iraq, has been wracked by
Congressional aides said the proposed request reflected growing
concerns -- both within the White House and Congress -- about
mounting violence and the slow pace of reconstruction.
U.S. occupation authorities in Iraq are running low on money and
lawmakers have appealed to the White House to make its spending
plans known as quickly as possible.
Bush has promised to give occupation authorities the resources
they need to stabilize the country, but critics say he has yet to
Earlier this year, Congress gave Bush $79 billion to pay for the
conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, including $2.5 billion as seed
money for Iraq's postwar restoration.
By asking Congress for extra money sooner than expected, Bush
could demonstrate his commitment to improving security and
reconstruction before he appeals to other nations at the United
Nations to volunteer their own troops to a multinational force.
To that end, Secretary of State Colin Powell said on Wednesday he
began negotiations with key Security Council members on a draft U.N.
resolution that would adjust the arrangements for running postwar
A massive spending request could be politically risky for Bush.
The administration has played down the cost of reconstruction for
months, although officials now concede Iraqi oil revenues will not
come close to covering the bill as they had hoped.
A $65 billion request would also push the nation's budget deficit
to well above the half-trillion-dollar mark for the first time.