Congressional Democrats and the White House are battling over bills that would provide the military more than $100 billion, mostly for the war in Iraq, but also set timetables for withdrawing U.S. troops from that country. The troop-withdrawal language has drawn fierce opposition from President Bush and a veto promise. If the two sides can settle their dispute and a bill can be signed, it is likely to include several billion dollars for military and civil construction.
| Bills' Construction-Related Provisions Include: |
($/Mil.; totals are rounded)
|DOD Base Closures||3,137|| |
|Iraq Reconstruction (CERP)*||456||456|
|VA facilities (maint., repairs)||595||595|
|Corps flood control||1,300|| |
|Airport baggage screening||1,250|| |
|FHWA emergency relief||0|| |
|Port, transit, rail security||0|| |
|*Commander's Emergency Response Program |
Source: House, Senate Appropriations Committees
At ENR press time, the Senate was debating its bill, which totals $121.6 billion, including at least $5 billion for construction. It also directs “phased deployment” of troops to begin within 120 days of enactment. If the bill passes, it would have to be reconciled with the $124-billion package that the House narrowly approved March 23. The House bill, which has at least $4 billion for construction, requires troops to start pulling out from Iraq by March 2008, if political and military benchmarks are met.
Veto threats hang over both measures. President Bush blasted the House bill as having “too much pork, too many conditions and an artificial timetable for withdrawal.” As Bush noted, the 218-212 House margin was far short of the two-thirds majority needed to override a veto.
Most of both bills’ DOD funding is for personnel, equipment and other operational costs of the war in Iraq. But $456 million would go to the Commander’s Emergency Response Program for humanitarian relief and small reconstruction projects there. The House measure has $620 million for U.S. civilian-military Provincial Reconstruction Teams in Iraq and $217 million for PRTs in Afghanistan. The Senate bill has $373 million for Iraq PRTs. DOD’s share also includes construction aid. The House bill provides $1.8 billion and the Senate’s earmarks $1.6 billion. Much of that is for projects in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Both bills also contain $3.1 billion for the current domestic base-closure round. Much of that is expected to finance new buildings at posts gaining personnel from installations to be closed. When a final package emerges, “Hopefully that will survive,” says Larry Bory, HDR vice president for federal government relations.
The House measure has $1.3 billion and the Senate version $1.7 billion for Army Corps of Engineers flood-control work around New Orleans. HDR’s Bory thinks the New Orleans funding also will be part of a final compromise measure. Also likely to be included are funds for construction, repairs and maintenance at Dept. of Veterans Affairs facilities.