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Bush asks for $25 billion more for Iraq

/ Source: The Associated Press

The Bush administration asked Congress for an additional $25 billion Wednesday for U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, a retreat from the White House’s earlier plans not to seek such money until after the November elections.

Joshua Bolten, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz went to the Capitol to present the proposal to House Speaker Dennis Hastert of Illinois, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee and other top Republicans.

“While we do not know the precise costs for operations next year, recent developments on the ground and increased demands on our troops indicate the need to plan for contingencies, ”the White House said in a statement. “We must make sure there is no disruption in funding and resources for our troops.”

John Warner, R-Va., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, called the request a “good move.”

The request comes amid an intensified Iraqi insurrection that has inflicted steady casualties on Americans and forced the Defense Department to plan on keeping more troops in the country next year than the administration had intended.

It also comes with the Bush administration and the military facing widespread criticism at home and abroad for the abuse of Iraqi war prisoners, including investigations into the deaths of 14 of the detainees.

Money for next fiscal year
The $25 billion would be for the federal budget year that begins next Oct. 1, House aides said.

In February, President Bush’s budget omitted any funds for U.S. military and reconstruction activities in Iraq and Afghanistan next year. Bolten said at the time that the administration’s 2005 request for Iraq could be up to $50 billion and that the request would not come until at least next January.

For months, administration officials had insisted that they had enough money to last until the new year. This year’s expected record federal deficit could be a significant issue in the election campaign.

Congress and Bush enacted an $87.5 billion package in November for this year’s operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. In April 2003, a $79.5 billion measure was approved for that year’s activities.

In recent weeks, administration officials have raised the possibility that they also will need extra money for the final weeks of this fiscal year, with many members of Congress saying they believe billions will be needed.

But as recently as Monday, a senior administration official downplayed the need for money right now for U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It seemed likely that the $25 billion proposal would be only the first installment of funds that will be needed for next year.

One camp in the White House has been agitating for weeks for a supplemental budget request, on two grounds. The officials have argued that neither Democrats nor Republicans in Congress would block such funds if the military made it plain that the money was needed for the troops and that it was better to have a long fight over the money sooner rather than later in the year — and closer to the election.