WASHINGTON - US President George W. Bush on Monday will seek $245
billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan while boosting other military
spending and curbing domestic programs, setting the stage for a big battle with
Democrats over funding priorities.
U.S. President George W. Bush speaks at the House Democratic
Issues Conference in Williamsburg, Virginia, February 3, 2007.
Democrats newly in control of Congress have pledged careful oversight of the
hefty proposals for Iraq spending.
And as details of Bush's fiscal 2008 budget spill out into the media,
Democrats took aim at expected proposals to wring savings from children's health
care and other domestic programs.
Bush has pledged to balance the budget in five years and is adamant about his
aim of extending his tax cuts that Democrats have called fiscally irresponsible.
But he acknowledged the looming budget debate at a conference on Saturday of
House of Representatives Democrats.
"Some of it you'll like, some of it you won't like," he told Democrats.
Speaking on CNN on Sunday, White House budget director Rob Portman confirmed
that Bush will ask Congress for $100 billion more for the Iraq and Afghanistan
wars for fiscal year 2007, which ends in September.
He will seek $145 billion in war spending in 2008 and forecast $50 billion in
expenditures for Iraq in 2009, Portman said.
The war spending for 2007 will mark the highest annual level since the
invasion of Iraq nearly four years ago. The total for this year, $170 billion,
includes the $100 billion request and $70 billion that Congress already
Portman said about 90 percent of that money will fund military and diplomatic
operations related to the Iraq war. About $12 billion is for Afghanistan and
some of it for other programs related to the "war on terror."
Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said reports documenting past
misspending in Iraq meant there was a need for "serious oversight" of the newest
"America has already spent almost $400 billion on this war, too much of which
has been wasted on boondoggles like Olympic-sized swimming pools in unused
multimillion dollar training camps in the desert," said Reid, a Nevada Democrat.
Portman said corrections had been made. "We believe we have the controls in
place to do a better job going forward," he told CNN.
Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, also sent Bush a
letter on Friday asking him to boost funding for a health program for children
that has been cited in the media as targeted for proposed reductions.
Meanwhile, an administration official who has been briefed on the numbers
said the president will seek to boost the Pentagon's regular budget by 10.5
percent to $481 billion.
The 2008 spending plan -- which will total $2.9 trillion -- would also hold
discretionary nondefense spending to a 1 percent increase, according to the
official who was contacted by Reuters and spoke on condition of anonymity so as
not to pre-empt Bush's announcement.
The proposed rise in domestic spending would mean a cut in programs after
accounting for inflation, which is running at 2.5 percent.
Bush will also seek $96 billion in savings over five years from mandatory
programs like the Medicare health program for the elderly, the Medicaid health
program for the poor and farm subsidies, the official said.
He will aim to reduce the growth of Medicare by $66 billion over five years
and Medicaid by $12.7 billion. Some savings would be achieved by curbing
payments to hospitals and other providers.