Senators Wary of Iraq Reconstruction Spending

Members of a Senate committee that voted against President Bush's Iraq plan said Thursday they also are wary of pouring more money into rebuilding while the security situation is so dire.

"I want you to know that I am not inclined to support any additional funding in this area without strong assurances that this sort of mismanagement has been alleviated," said Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va.

A day earlier the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 12-9 in favor of a resolution condemning Bush's decision to send 21,500 more troops to Iraq. The vote largely was along party lines. Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel was the sole Republican who supported the measure.

A full Senate vote could come as early as the week of Feb. 5, Democratic leaders said Thursday.

Bush says the troops are needed to provide security for rebuilding efforts. As part of his new strategy, Bush pledged an additional $1.2 billion and said the Iraqi government designated $10 billion.

The State Department is expanding the number of reconstruction teams for Baghdad and the western Anbar province, sending some 300 additional civilian personnel to Iraq.

On Thursday, Republicans and Democrats told a State Department official they are concerned the extra money could fuel corruption or the insurgency.

"Some of us have become very skeptical of the capacity -- our capacity to organize this and the capacity to actually implement it," said Sen. Joseph Biden, the committee chairman.

The department has spent nearly $15 billion on reconstruction, said Biden, D-Del., and "as you know better than I do, the results aren't pretty."

Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar, the committee's top Republican, said Congress should get more detailed reports from the administration on progress made and money spent in Iraq.

"Overall, the results have been disappointing to the Iraqi people, to Congress, and to American taxpayers," he said about the rebuilding efforts.

David Satterfield, the department's senior adviser on Iraq, said the increased security afforded by extra troops will make it easier to oversee spending.

"We know there are no silver bullets, no guarantees regarding the question of Iraq. We know that most Americans are deeply concerned about the prospects for success there," he told senators.

"But the situation now in Iraq, and the stakes for the United States, the region and the international community, are extraordinary," Satterfield said.

The resolution awaiting action by the full Senate says that Bush's decision to send more troops is "not in the national interest."

Republicans have met privately to try to shore up support for Bush's approach. The Senate is tied 49-49 between the two parties, with two independents caucusing with the Democrats. That means either party needs help from the other to reach the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster and advance legislation.

"The goal is to try to salvage this situation and not send the additional troops with a message of disapproval," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., of the GOP meetings.

McCain told reporters Thursday he is interested in drafting a resolution that would establish benchmarks by which the U.S. could measure the effectiveness of the troop increase.

Such a resolution could have broad appeal among Republicans who want to avoid attacking the president but are concerned about sending additional troops to Iraq without an exit strategy.

Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, said he believed the Democratic resolution could be viewed as a political attack on Bush and misinterpreted "by our enemies as abandoning Iraq." But, he added, he was skeptical that additional troops in Baghdad would be successful.

"I have been waiting for the administration to extend an olive branch in an attempt to forge a compromise" that would make clear "we stand united as a nation," Voinovich said. "I obviously have been disappointed since that has not happened."

Voinovich and like-minded GOP senators say they might be willing to sign on to the measure backed by Sens. John Warner, R-Va., Susan Collins, R-Maine, Norm Coleman, R-Minn., and Ben Nelson, D-Neb.

Warner, a prominent Republican and former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, cast his measure as a milder alternative that does not use politically charged language. It leaves open the possibility of Bush's sending in a much smaller number of troops, particularly to the Anbar province, and uses language that some say may be seen as less partisan.

Senate Democratic leaders say they are trying to negotiate with Warner to pull in more GOP support.