Richard Cowan / Reuters – 2005-04-20 09:05:03
WASHINGTON (April 18, 2005) – The US Senate urged the Bush administration on Monday to plan better for the costs of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan instead of relying on a series of stop-gap spending bills.
By a lopsided vote of 61-31, senators approved a non-binding resolution calling on President Bush to submit projected war costs in the US budget plan he submits to Congress each February.
Twenty-one Republicans joined Democrats in voting for the resolution as an amendment to a bill that would provide $81 billion in “emergency” funds to pay for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Senate amendment was offered by Sen. Robert Byrd, a Democrat from West Virginia, who has been a vocal critic of the Iraq war and its costs. Byrd’s measure, which was approved with little debate, also would urge Bush to submit to Congress short-term cost estimates for existing military operations by Sept. 1
“Over the last three and a half years, at a time when the government is swimming in red ink, the White House has charged an additional $280 billion on the national credit card, without proposing a single dime of that spending in its annual budget proposals,” Byrd said referring to growing war costs.
While Byrd’s measure expresses the Senate’s distaste for a series of emergency-spending bills for combat operations during a time of record federal budget deficits, it would not force the White House to provide such information in annual budgets.
The White House has said war costs are too hard to predict within the advance-planning requirements of the budget process.
By keeping war-cost estimates out of his annual budget proposals, Bush also has excluded some of those costs from official deficit estimates.
The Senate is expected to pass the $81-billion spending bill for Iraq and Afghanistan later this week. The House of Representatives has passed its version of the war-spending bill, which lacks the resolution on cost projections.
Following Senate passage, the two chambers are expected to quickly work out their differences and get the measure to Bush for his signature.
Byrd said the result of funding the Iraq and Afghanistan operations with emergency-spending measures is “piecemeal information” about costs and a “thoroughly disjointed and discombobulated federal budget.”
Byrd said that requiring war-cost estimates in the annual budget request would help Congress and the Bush administration focus on troop needs going forward.
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