WASHINGTON – The Bush administration won Congress's permission Wednesday to shift $3.5 billion from slow-moving Iraqi reconstruction projects (search) to improving security and speeding job creation there.
The White House asked Congress on Sept. 13 to let it transfer the money, which is part of an $18.4 billion package for Iraq enacted last November.
The request, sparked by an ongoing insurgency that has put many contractors well behind schedule, has met little opposition in Congress. Democrats have used it to launch campaign-season accusations that President Bush had an inadequate blueprint for rebuilding Iraq.
"It has become crystal clear that we have no coherent plans to win the peace," Rep. Nita Lowey (search), D-N.Y., said before the House approved the provision.
Without the change, the White House could shift only $800 million without Congress' approval. Though the administration insisted last fall that lawmakers approve the $18.4 billion urgently, barely $1 billion has been spent.
"Due to circumstances that developed on the ground, the flexibility in current law is insufficient to allow the State Department to provide significantly greater funding for security and employment activities," said Rep. Jim Kolbe (search), R-Ariz. "And I think we all understand security must be the top priority."
The provision was included in a bill keeping federal agencies functioning through Nov. 20. The bill was needed because, with the government's new budget year starting Friday, Congress has completed just one of the 13 annual bills that finance agency programs.
The House approved the measure 389-32. The Senate approved the measure by voice vote.