As War's Costs Rise, Congress Demands That Iraq Pay Larger Share

As War's Costs Rise, Congress Demands That Iraq Pay Larger Share
April 19th, 2008  
Team Infidel

Topic: As War's Costs Rise, Congress Demands That Iraq Pay Larger Share

As War's Costs Rise, Congress Demands That Iraq Pay Larger Share
New York Times
April 19, 2008
Pg. 9
By David M. Herszenhorn and Eric Lipton
WASHINGTON — As Congress gears up to debate President Bush’s latest request for $108 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, lawmakers in both parties are pointing to record-high oil prices and demanding that Iraq pay a larger share of the costs, especially for reconstruction efforts.
In a letter to the defense secretary, Robert M. Gates, a group of 10 senators — six Democrats and four Republicans — wrote that Iraq was likely to see a “financial windfall” of about $56 billion from high oil prices and that it should be forced to spend that money.
“The time has come to end this blank-check policy and require the Iraqis to invest in their own future,” the senators wrote.
The rising clamor, particularly among Republican lawmakers who face tough re-election challenges, and new polls showing Americans more dissatisfied than ever with the war, are ratcheting up the pressure on the Bush administration ahead of what is likely to be a pitched battle over the war spending bill.
Congressional Democrats have said that they will not simply grant Mr. Bush’s request, but will once again seek to attach strings, including a requirement that Iraq pay a higher share of the costs. The Democrats also plan to add up to $30 billion in domestic spending that they say is needed to help the economy.
Some Democrats are also trying to approve an additional $70 billion to sustain military operations through the end of Mr. Bush’s term, a move that would draw greater attention to the high cost of the Iraq war.
Mr. Bush’s current request would finance the Iraq and Afghanistan operations through Sept. 30.
In a new line of attack against the administration, the majority leader, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, has taken to stressing that the cost of the Iraq war is roughly $5,000 per second.
“The president has not been honest about the cost of the war from the beginning,” Mr. Reid said at a news conference this week. “$5,000 a second, $434 million every day. Seven days a week, no weekends off, no vacations. $12 billion every month.”
The White House says it shares the view that Iraq must shoulder more of the costs, and insists that Iraq is already beginning to do so. But the administration continues to dismiss criticism of its spending.
“Fighting terrorism and taking care of our veterans is not inexpensive,” the budget director, Jim Nussle, wrote in a letter this week. “We acknowledge that. However the economy also benefits when terrorist attacks are prevented and we doubt any critics of the level of spending take that into account.”
At a news conference on Thursday, 3 of the 10 senators who wrote to Mr. Gates — Evan Bayh, Democrat of Indiana; Susan Collins, Republican of Maine; and Ben Nelson, Democrat of Nebraska — said they would press the administration to force Iraq to spend more of its budget surplus, projected at $60 billion, on reimbursing American expenses, including the cost of fuel.
Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, is considering pushing the debate into yet another arena next week, an aide said, perhaps by asking the State Department to determine if Iraq is using American tax dollars to hire lawyers and lobbyists to influence Congress and the administration.
Mr. Schumer does not know if that was the case, the aide said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the senator had not yet finalized his plans. But he said Mr. Schumer believed that it was inappropriate for Iraq to try to influence policy while American soldiers were in Iraq.
Since 2003, $22 million has been spent by political and government entities in Iraq on lawyers, lobbyists and other consultants who represent them in the United States, according to Justice Department records.
The Iraqi government has been the biggest spender: $15.6 million through late last year, with the Kurdistan Regional Government spending $6 million.
Mr. Schumer’s concerns mostly relate to two firms hired by the Iraqi government that helped defeat a proposal in Congress that would have allowed Americans to seize Iraqi assets to settle certain outstanding legal claims.
Samir Sumaidaie, Iraq’s ambassador in Washington, rejected Mr. Schumer’s criticism, saying that United States aid has never been used to pay its lobbying and law firms here.
“I can say categorically, that no such thing has happened,” he said Friday.

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