WASHINGTON – The White House will ask Congress next week for another $70 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, an amount that would help cover operational costs only until early next year when the next administration takes over.
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said Monday that the money, included as part of the administration's 2009 budget request, would be considered an "emergency allowance" to pay for operations beginning Oct. 1, when the budget year begins, until possibly January.
President Bush asked for more than twice that amount — $196.4 billion — to fuel combat operations this fiscal year.
Democrats are still balking at that price tag. Of that nearly $200 billion budget, Congress has approved less than half — $70 billion for general operations and $16.8 billion for Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles.
Short of the votes needed to bring troops home, but tied to a support base that wants nothing less, Democrats are in no hurry to revisit the issue. They calculate the military has enough money to continue operations through April or May. By that time, Gen. David Petraeus will have briefed Congress on whether progress in Iraq is continuing.
Petraeus, the top military commander in Iraq, is scheduled to testify in March or early April.
Since 2001, Congress has approved some $700 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. If Bush's 2008 and 2009 requests are approved in their entirety, that amount would increase to roughly $876 billion.