WASHINGTON – The White House is expected to ask Congress for up to $90 billion to pay for a war with Iraq and other expenses within days of the start of combat, congressional and White House aides said Monday.
The bill would also include aid for Israel, a key U.S. ally in the region, and funds for anti-terrorism efforts at home, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Two officials said President Bush could send the measure to Capitol Hill as early as Friday.
It was initially unclear how much of the measure would be to finance fighting against Iraq, though one official said the figure assumed one month of combat.
Private analysts have estimated the costs of a brief war in the $40 billion to $60 billion range, including the expenses of moving the U.S. force to and from the region but excluding the costs of a postwar U.S. role in the region. They have said the aftermath, with the United States rebuilding Iraq and keeping peacekeeping troops there, could cost more than $100 billion, depending on the scope of the reconstruction effort and the duration of the U.S. stay.
Congressional Democrats have been criticizing Bush for not disclosing the potential costs of war even as federal deficits grow to record levels and Republicans begin trying to push a tax cut and budget for next year through Congress.
GOP lawmakers have said such a figure was not crucial as budget work begins.
On a day when Bush gave Iraqi President Saddam Hussein 48 hours to leave his country or face an invasion, one congressional aide said he was expecting the bill to total $50 billion to $80 billion.
Another congressional official, who like the first spoke only on condition of anonymity, said the range would be $70 billion to $90 billion. This aide said it was likely about 90 percent of the money would be for the Defense Department.
A White House official said those ranges sounded familiar but declined to be more specific. The official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said the administration was still making last-minute decisions about the funds.
Asked about the estimates, White House budget office spokesman Trent Duffy said, "The president will work with Congress to secure money for whatever action he deems necessary."
Last month, a senior Defense Department official said the Pentagon believed it will need $60 billion to $85 billion to cover its costs in Iraq and for fighting terrorism elsewhere around the world through Sept. 30.
The Pentagon also said it was already drawing down its budget by $1.6 billion per month for its battle against terrorism around the world, excluding Iraq costs, and would eventually need to be reimbursed.
So far, Congress has approved $376 billion for the Defense Department for this year.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated in early March that a war with Iraq would cost about $14 billion to transport American troops and equipment to the region; more than $10 billion for the first month of combat and $8 billion monthly afterward; and $9 billion to bring the forces home.
The 1991 Persian Gulf War cost the United States $61 billion, or $80 billion in today's dollars when the past decade's inflation is factored in. The allies reimbursed the United States all but about $7 billion of those costs with cash or other contributions like fuel.