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Bush seeks $100 billion for wars in 2007

Reuters | February 3, 2007
Caren Bohan

President George W. Bush will ask Congress for $99.7 billion for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars for the rest of fiscal year 2007 and more than $145 billion for fiscal year 2008, a Bush administration official said on Friday.

The administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, also said Bush would estimate the costs for the Iraq war at $50 billion for fiscal year 2009. Bush will unveil those numbers when he presents his annual budget to Congress on Monday.

The nearly $100 billion in war spending for 2007 comes on top of $70 billion that Congress already approved, totaling $170 billion and making this year the most expensive yet for the war.

Bush will ask for a hefty infusion of funds for Iraq at a time when his plans to dispatch 21,500 additional troops to the conflict have met with strong objections from many Democrats and some Republicans in Congress. Lawmakers are debating a resolution that would formally state their opposition.

The administration also has been under pressure from Congress to provide more details about its spending plans for the unpopular war.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, called the expected request for the Pentagon next year a "huge number," but added that she backed doing "whatever we have to do to protect the American people."

But Democrats have promised tough oversight into Bush's requests for Iraq war funding and military spending overall.

The New York Times, citing Pentagon officials, said the Bush administration was seeking a total military budget of $622 billion for fiscal 2008 -- including $481 billion for the regular Pentagon budget.

It would request $128.6 billion for the Army, $110.7 billion for the Air Force and $140 billion for the Navy, the Times said in a story posted on its Web site on Friday.

RECORD SPENDING SINCE KOREAN WAR

Accounting for inflation, the $622 billion would be a record for U.S. military spending since the height of the Korean War in the early 1950s, it said.

Pelosi, who spoke to reporters at a retreat of House Democrats in Williamsburg, Virginia, said Democrats needed to see a breakdown of the proposals for Pentagon funding requests to decide if they are justified.

Since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the administration has funded the war primarily through emergency spending bills.

Many lawmakers want that practice stopped and have demanded that Bush incorporate the war requests into the regular budget for the sake of transparency, with some referring to the emergency bills as a "shadow" budget.

The funding requests for Iraq and Afghanistan will be submitted to Congress in the form of emergency budget "supplementals." But the administration will try to meet the concerns of its critics by providing a lot of details about its spending plans in the budget documents.

On the domestic side of the budget, analysts expect a near freeze in spending as Bush seeks to make the case that his tax cuts can be afforded while achieving the goal of erasing the deficit by 2012.

The administration official declined to comment on overall domestic spending, but said Bush will project a balanced budget within five years and a surplus for 2012.

The New York Times reported on Friday that Bush will propose squeezing $70 billion in savings from the Medicare and Medicaid health programs over the next five years -- a proposal that is likely to be politically sensitive.

The official said that while the administration believes such savings are important for the long-term health of the budget, the expectation of a surplus "does not rest" on the achievement of the Medicare savings.

(Additional reporting by Richard Cowan)

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