The following letter was sent to Congressional lawmakers by the White House to convey the Bush administration's views on the Iraq spending package being debated:
The Honorable C. W. Bill Young
Committee on Appropriations
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Mr. Chairman:
This letter provides the Administration's views on H.R. 3289 and S. 1689, the FY 2004 Emergency Supplemental for Iraq and Afghanistan Security and Reconstruction Bills, as passed by the House and by the Senate. The Administration applauds the House and Senate for passing the President's supplemental funding request to support our mission and our troops deployed for the War on Terrorism in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere.
The President's request reflects the urgent and essential requirements to secure Iraq's transition to self-government and to help create the conditions for economic growth and investment, which are critical to winning the war on terror. The supplemental request will also continue our efforts to help build an Afghanistan that is prosperous, democratic, and at peace.
The vast majority of the President's request goes to American troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan so they have the equipment, pay, and other resources they need to perform their mission. The Iraqi Relief and Reconstruction Fund, less than one-quarter of the total size of the request, supports Iraqi efforts to provide for their own security, establish basic living standards, and create an environment for significant private investment. By working to establish Iraqi and Afghan nations that are free, prosperous, and at peace with their neighbors, we eliminate a key base of operations for terrorists and enhance the security of America and her citizens.
Given the critical need, the Administration strongly opposes the Senate provision that would convert a portion of this assistance to a loan mechanism. If this provision is not removed, the President's senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill. Including a loan mechanism slows efforts to stabilize the region and to relieve pressure on our troops, raises questions about our commitment to building a democratic and self-governing Iraq, and impairs our ability to encourage other nations to provide badly needed assistance without saddling Iraq with additional debt. The sooner freedom and democracy take root in Iraq and Afghanistan, the sooner these countries will cease to be havens for terror groups and the safer America and the world will be.
Both the House and the Senate versions of the bill contain provisions that are not directly related to on-going military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere or relief and reconstruction activities. The Administration strongly opposes these provisions, including Senate provisions that would allocate an additional $1.3 billion for VA medical care and the provision that would expand benefits under the TRICARE program.
The Administration is also concerned that both the House and Senate versions of the bill underfund the President's request for Iraq Relief and Reconstruction by $1.7 billion and $1.9 billion, respectively. The Administration encourages the conferees to ensure funding is provided for high-priority items such as local governance and municipalities, maximum security prisons, the American Iraqi Enterprise Fund, and a Basrah pediatric hospital.
The Administration is also concerned that the House does not provide the $858 million requested for the Coalition Provisional Authority's Operating Expenses to the U.S. Army, Operation and Maintenance account as requested. The existing structure ensures that CPA can complete its mission efficiently.
The Administration is also concerned that both versions of the bill contain numerous burdensome and duplicative reporting requirements. The Administration appreciates Congress' concern with transparency and will work with Congress to ensure that the final bill establishes an appropriate reporting and accountability regime.
To avoid any conflict with the President's constitutional authorities, we believe section 304 of the Senate version of the bill should be amended to eliminate the requirement for 90 days advance notice to Congress for changes in command responsibility or permanent assignment of forces and should instead require notice as promptly as practicable. We also believe the last mtwo provisos under the heading "Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Fund," which relate to the content of a new constitution for Iraq, should be made clearly advisory.
The Administration urges the conferees to expeditiously send the President a bill that he can sign into law that provides needed funds for our military and urgent Iraq and Afghanistan reconstruction efforts.
Joshua B. Bolten
Identical Letter Sent to The Honorable C. W. Bill Young, The Honorable David R. Obey, The Honorable Ted Stevens, and The Honorable Robert C. Byrd