WASHINGTON – President Bush asked lawmakers Thursday for an additional $27.1 billion to finance the war on terrorism overseas and to buttress security at home.
The request is on top of $40 billion that Bush and Congress provided last fall as an initial response to the Sept. 11 attacks. While the $67.1 billion total is a small fraction of the $2.1 trillion the government will spend this year, it would exceed the budgets of all but a few federal agencies.
"I know it's a lot of money, my request, but ... I want to remind you all, we fight for freedom," Bush said in El Paso, Texas, before traveling to Latin America.
The proposal is dominated by funds for the Pentagon, aviation security, New York and foreign aid.
It includes at least $29 million to help Colombia in its newly escalated war against rebels. The United States previously has helped the Colombian government fight left- and right-wing groups, many of whom finance themselves through involvement in drug trafficking.
The overall plan is sure to be popular among lawmakers, who have offered strong support for the effort against terrorism. But it is unlikely to emerge from Congress unscathed.
Some Democrats in recent weeks have questioned the administration's war goals, and members of both parties have demanded more details about the White House's anti-terrorism plans.
The bill also will have to contend with lingering bitter feelings over Bush's victory in December over Democrats and some Republicans who tried adding billions of dollars in anti-terrorism spending.
"Instead, the White House played politics and forced an unnecessary delay," said David Sirota, spokesman for Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., a leader of that effort.
Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska, the top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, said he would support the proposal. He said it would "sustain our nation's effort to prosecute the war on terrorism, defend our nation at home and reach out to assist our partners abroad."
Lawmakers cannot begin working on the measure until finishing a two-week recess in early April. Work on the package probably will last weeks.
Much of the money for Bush's latest request would come from making this year's projected federal deficit even deeper. This year's red ink was expected to reach about $46 billion even before the president's latest spending proposal.
Of Bush's request, $14 billion would be for the Defense Department and intelligence agencies. Most would be for the costs of the campaign in Afghanistan and military operations elsewhere, and for the thousands of Reserve and National Guard troops now activated.
Bush also asked for:
— $4.7 billion for the new Transportation Security Administration to toughen safety measures at airports and aboard planes, and for the Coast Guard.
— Nearly $5.6 billion to help New York, where the World Trade Center towers were toppled. That money is part of the $21 billion Bush promised earlier this month for the still-struggling city.
— $1.7 billion for foreign aid and U.S. embassy security.
— $750 million to help workers who have lost jobs.
— $327 million for equipment and training for local law enforcement agencies.
— $87 million to help the Postal Service prevent future biohazard attacks through the mail.
— $20 million for the Securities and Exchange Commission to add 100 financial fraud investigators in the wake of the Enron scandal.
— $12.5 million for cleaning the Capitol complex after a letter containing anthrax bacteria was sent last October to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D.
Meanwhile, the Senate Budget Committee gave 12-10 party-line approval to a $2.1 trillion budget for next year. The blueprint, written by majority Democrats, would reject $600 billion in new tax cuts Bush proposed and would devote more than the he sought for spending and debt reduction.
The measure also calls for a five-year plan for balancing the budget by 2008, but leaves the task of choosing spending cuts or tax increases to achieve that until next year.
The House approved a rival package that embraces Bush's budget goals on Wednesday.