WASHINGTON – Two leading congressional Democrats said Monday that President Bush had failed to give Congress enough detail on how $40 billion had been used for wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and for fighting terrorists. They asked him to provide the information.
The Democrats also said that despite legal requirements to do so, the Bush administration had not consulted with lawmakers about how it was distributing much of the money and had failed to provide quarterly reports on the expenditures.
"Transparency in this regard is critical. We need a full accounting of the entire $40 billion" fund, said the letter by Sen. Robert Byrd (search) of West Virginia and Rep. David Obey (search) of Wisconsin, top Democrats on the Senate and House Appropriations committees.
Chad Kolton, spokesman for the White House budget office, said Congress had provided "unprecedented flexibility" when it approved money for the war against terror just after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
"Since then, the administration has kept Congress fully informed" about how it is using the money, Kolton said.
The Democrats' letter was the latest election-year fallout from a book by Washington Post editor Bob Woodward (search), "Plan of Attack."
In it, Woodward said that in 2002, the administration had diverted $700 million to preparations for a war with Iraq from anti-terrorism funds without informing Congress. That money came from the $40 billion anti-terrorism package that Congress approved three days after hijacked planes knocked down the World Trade Center buildings and crashed into the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field.
The Defense Department has said that in summer 2002, Gen. Tommy Franks (search), chief of U.S. Central Command, asked the Pentagon for $750 million for projects to help him prepare for a war with Iraq.
The Defense Department says it provided $178 million for 21 projects in Kuwait (search), Qatar and other Persian Gulf countries. It says those projects would help the United States pursue a global war on terrorism, and — according to a list provided to Congress includes money for a headquarters facility in Qatar (search), communications equipment and ammunition storage.
The remainder of Franks' request, which was specific to confronting Iraq, was discarded until after Oct. 11, 2002, when Congress gave Bush authority to use force in Iraq, the Pentagon has said.
In their letter, Obey and Byrd said they had no record that Congress was consulted before the $178 million was spent and had not gotten sufficient detail in later reports "to indicate whether funds were used to prepare for the war in Iraq."
The two Democrats also said although the law required the White House to report quarterly on how the $40 billion was being spent, Congress has not received a report since May 2003.