President Bush has asked Congress for $74.7 billion in supplemental spending to fight the war in Iraq, provide humanitarian relief there and combat terrorism in the U.S.
Bush's request, announced March 24 and sent to Congress the following day, includes $62.6 billion for the military effort, including $700 million to repair Iraqi oil facility damages and for programs in Colombia and Afghanistan. There also would be $200 million for military construction, including taxiways and airport aprons in the Middle East, facilities to process suspected terrorist detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and other facilities elsewhere.
The package also includes $2.4 billion for a new, flexible account focused on relief and reconstruction. The funds will provide food, water, medicine and clothing and also will be used "to repair damaged infrastructure, restore important government services and keep schools open," the White House said. Combined with items in the $62.6-billion DOD portion of the plan, the total commitment for Iraq relief and reconstruction would be about $3.5 billion, according to the Office of Management and Budget.
In addition the plan contains $4.2 billion for homeland defense. About $1.5 billion of that homeland money will go to expand operations of the new Dept. of Homeland Security.
The White House says all items in the request are "directly tied to Operation Iraqi Freedom, the war on terror or addressing the terrorism threat to our homeland and the preparedness needs of our first responders."
House Appropriations Committee Chairman C.W. (Bill) Young (R-Fla.) said he will move Bush's request through the House quickly. He also said, "I will keep it as close to the President's request as possible and I will resist any efforts to add extraneous provisions."
In the Senate, Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia, the top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, said, "I fully support every dollar needed for the troops, for their safety and for completing their mission so they can return home. But I am not for giving a blank check to this or any other administration. I am concerned about the so-called 'flexibility' that the administration indicates it wants in this bill."
Byrd also said the Bush spending plan "is just a down payment. This is not the alpha and the omega for the costs of war. There will be future requests from the administration concerning this war.