WASHINGTON – President Bush sent Congress his request for $87 billion in additional spending for Iraq (search) on Wednesday, saying the money is critical to helping rehabilitate the Middle Eastern nation.
"It is vital that we succeed in Iraq. A free Iraq will make America more secure," Bush told reporters as the legislation made its way to Capitol Hill.
But when the request for more money arrived on Capitol Hill, Democratic critics unleashed a torrent of complaints, including one that the president's request shows he's willing to spend more per capita on Iraqi needs -- like updating the power grid -- than he is on American ones.
"The president is asking us to spend $225 per Iraqi. At home, he's asking us to spend 71 cents, not dollars, but cents," said Rep. David Obey (search), D-Mich.
"The president is asking us to spend $157 per Iraqi to fix up their sewer and water system, while at home he is limiting his budget to $14 per American. If you take a look at hospitals and clinics in Iraq, the president is asking us to spend about $38 per capita for that activity. At home for that same medical infrastructure, he's asking us to spend approximately $3.30," Obey continued.
While Iraq has a population of 24 million and the United States 280 million, the issue isn't money, it's policy, according to Obey. Congress has a duty to ask tough questions about the occupation, he said.
They will have that chance soon enough. Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell (search), R-Ky., said he expected the Senate to take up the request in hearings beginning next week.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said she wanted to make sure appropriations and authorizing committees conducted the hearings in the open. Pelosi was one of a dozen Democrats who wrote to House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., Wednesday to request that witnesses and background materials be provided to the public.
The letter also asked for an evaluation of the U.S. military's ability to sustain troop levels, a timetable for the introduction of international money and troops, separate consideration of military and reconstruction portions of the request and open rules for debate on the floor.
"There is no question that a stable and secure Iraq is in the best interests of the United States, other countries in the region and the Iraqi people. The administration's current plan will not achieve those goals and must be revised," Pelosi said in a statement.
But Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., who joined fellow Senate Republicans in a meeting with Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz at the White House, said separating out military and reconstruction funds for separate votes would not happen.
"This is not a request that can be or should be broken apart into different pieces. It has to be considered as one because these requests are really inextricably intertwined to the recovery of the success of the mission and to the recovery of Iraq," he said.
Democrats also pressed the administration to do more to get international support and international money for Iraq so Americans won't have to pay all the bills.
"The U.S. cannot afford a go-it-alone policy with us taking all the risks and paying all the bills. We may be the lone superpower but resources are not infinite," said Rep. John Spratt, D-S.C., ranking member of the House Budget Committee.
In fact, the administration is working on a new U.N. resolution aimed at attracting more international support for Iraq.
France and Germany want the U.S. to evacuate the country within a month, which American officials regard as impossible.
But for those insisting on a U.S. timetable for return of sovereignty to Iraqis, Vice President Dick Cheney said that will depend on the Iraqis.
"In the months ahead, the Iraqis will draft a new constitution for themselves, and when this constitution has been ratified by the Iraqi people, they will enjoy free and fair elections. Then the coalition will yield its remaining authority to a sovereign Iraqi government," Cheney told the Air Force Association National Convention.
One official said a new constitution is expected sometime after the middle of next year, but the timetable is completely in the hands of Iraqis and not any other country, including the United States.
"I don't think that timetable should be set by any country. It should be set by the Iraqi people. Obviously it has to be realistic," said White House press secretary Scott McClellan.
Fox News' Jim Angle contributed to this report.