Your president has a bad case. Where previous requests for more money to throw down the Black Hole of the Near East were met with red, white and blue calls to Support Our Troops we know hear breast-beating about budget deficits and the appropriateness of “emergency” appropriations for easily anticipated costs.
House Republican leaders said yesterday that they may cut some of the nonmilitary parts of President Bush’s $82 billion budget request for Iraq and anti-terrorism efforts because they are not emergencies.
The sharp comments they made in challenging the budget request marked an abrupt departure from the deference the Republicans have shown Bush on earlier war funding. Party members said they are determined to reassert their authority over the budget at a time when the White House is accusing lawmakers of being big spenders.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, during a flurry of appearances on Capitol Hill, faced repeated questions from Republicans about whether the administration is trying to sneak through expenses as emergencies so they would undergo less scrutiny. GOP lawmakers also complained that the White House funding requests were too vague to analyze.
“If we can avoid emergency just for the sake of emergency, we can get a better handle on reducing the rate of growth of spending,” [House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.)] said.
“It’s certainly not what most of us envision as an emergency supplemental,” [House Republican Conference Chairman Deborah Pryce] said. “There’s a lot of probably routine spending in there.”
Rep. Joel Hefley (R-Colo.) said the wartime costs are largely easy to anticipate because they have held steady — citing the monthly $4.1 billion operational expenses in Iraq and $800,000 a month in Afghanistan — and that it is “disturbing” and “frustrating” to him that such items as Army transformation are included in the supplemental funding request.
Republicans said they were especially rankled by plans for the $658 million embassy in Baghdad, which the State Department said would have the largest staff of any U.S. embassy. The number of employees will not be released for security reasons, the staff said. Several Republican lawmakers said the embassy appeared to be a clearly foreseeable capital expense that did not belong in an emergency budget.
Rice, questioned about the embassy at an afternoon appearance before the House Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee on foreign operations, said the money is part of the emergency request because the government believes the job can be completed in 24 months if it is begun right away, and the administration would “really like to get started.”