Senators Oppose Bush Control of War Fund
The Honolulu Advertiser
The Bush administration may back down from its proposal to fully control the initial $25 billion for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan next year after senators demanded a role for Congress. The documents suggested most of the money would be used for operations and maintenance for the Army and other services. But the proposal would let the president shift the money to any defense or classified program after simply notifying Congress five days beforehand. Initially, Wolfowitz defended the proposal to give Bush unlimited leeway. But his tone changed after several senators voiced their opposition.
"I'm going to support this $25 billion, but we're going to put limitations on it because we're sworn to protect the people's money," said Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., who waved a copy of the Constitution at the witness table. Even the panel's chairman, Sen. John Warner, R-Va., said lawmakers want to make sure "we can maintain our oversight" of the funds.
Wolfowitz's acknowledgment that the war price tag would exceed $50 billion for the budget year that starts Oct. 1 edged the administration toward critics' estimates of closer to $75 billion. Wolfowitz told senators the next request for funds will come early next year, and "it will surely be much larger than $25 billion." That means the total in 2005 would be more than $50 billion. The war spending is on top of the $402 billion Bush has proposed for the Defense Department for 2005.