WASHINGTON – "Hidden" costs associated with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan mean taxpayers are footing a $1.3 trillion bill, $500 billion more than White House funding requests so far, says a new report by Democrats on Congress' Joint Economic Committee.
The report, released Tuesday, says the costs of the wars from 2002 to 2008 amounts to $20,900 for a family of four, of which $16,500 is for Iraq only. Those "hidden" costs include interest payments on the money borrowed to pay for the wars, lost investment, the expense of long-term health care for injured veterans and the cost of oil market disruptions.
"What this report makes crystal clear is that the cost to our country in lives lost and dollars spent is tragically unacceptable," said Joint Economic Committee Chairman Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., in a statement that accompanied the report's release.
The report says the current estimated costs are $1.3 trillion, but could be $1.6 billion by next October if things don't change. The Bush administration has requested $804 billion for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined, the report stated.
The Democrat-led Joint Economic Committee also bases some of its estimates on uncertain events. The estimates forecast economic policies beyond the 2008 presidential elections, saying that through 2017, the war could cost as much as $3.5 trillion.
Other imprecise factors that the report put a price tag on include the "direct effect of the war in reducing Iraqi oil production and the indirect effect of creating greater instability in the Middle East."
Some of those uncertainties led Republicans to roundly blast the report.
Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas and Rep. Jim Saxton of New Jersey, the top Republicans on the committee, issued a joint statement Tuesday calling the report "another thinly veiled exercise in political hyperbole masquerading as academic research," and saying Republicans were not consulted prior to the release of the report.
"The report ignores the fact that there are indeed benefits from curbing terrorism. The Democrats' report would have benefited from more analysis and quality control, and less political content. We call on Senator Schumer and the Democratic leadership in the House and the Senate to withdraw this defective report," they said.
Asked about the projections, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said she hadn't seen the report, but called it steeped in partisanship.
"It's obvious the motivations behind it. This report was put out by Democrats on Capitol Hill. This committee is known for being partisan and political. ... I think it is an attempt to muddy the waters on what has been some positive developments being reported out of Iraq," she said, adding that all the negative trends in Iraq are heading downward and all the positive trends are taking hold.
Between 2003 and 2017, the report says it would cost a family of four $46,400 to pay the war costs.
That assumption is based in large part on oil prices, which have surged since the start of the war, from about $37 a barrel to well over $90 a barrel in recent weeks.
"Consistent disruptions from the war have affected oil prices," the report said, acknowledging that the Iraq war is not responsible for all of the increase in oil prices.
Still, the report estimated that high oil prices have hit U.S. consumers in the pocket, transferring "approximately $124 billion from U.S. oil consumers to foreign (oil) producers" from 2003 to 2008, the report said.
High oil prices can slow overall economic growth if that chills spending and investment by consumers and businesses. At the same time, high oil prices can spread inflation throughout the economy if companies decide to boost the prices of many other goods and services.
Meanwhile, "the sum of interest paid on Iraq-related debt from 2003 to 2017 will total over $550 billion," the report said. The government has to make interest payments on the money it borrows to finance the national debt, which recently hit $9 trillion for the first time.
Effect on Iraq 'Bridge' Bill?
The report comes as the House prepares to vote this week on another effort by Democrats to set a deadline for withdrawing troops from Iraq in conjunction with providing another $50 billion for the war, known as the so-called "bridge" funding bill.
The offer from congressional Democrats is in response to President Bush's standing request for $196 billion in emergency war funding. Congress last week sent Bush the non-war related Pentagon funding bill — totaling $471 billion — which Bush signed Tuesday.
Under current plans, Democrats would require the president to begin withdrawing troops within 30 days, with all combat troops out by the end of 2008. It would be a much faster pace than the president has called for, which would bring home five combat brigades and a few other units — totaling roughly 30,000 troops — by July next year.
Democrats speaking Tuesday renewed complaints about the president not putting war funding into the regular budget, instead preferring to advance emergency bills — which have no accompanying spending cuts or tax increases to offset increases to the budget deficit.
Democrats, however, had a chance to place war funding into the annual defense spending bill, but made a specific point not to, a senior Senate Appropriations Committee aide said.
The aide told FOX News that the Senate Democrat in charge of ushering the defense spending bill to the chamber floor, Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, refused to add in any troop withdrawal language because it would have held up the bill.
The trillion-dollar sums pointed to in the Joint Economic Committee report are aimed at trying to pick off vulnerable Senate Republicans like Norm Coleman of Minnesota and John Sununu of New Hampshire who are expected to face tight re-election races next year.
But recent military successes in Iraq could make the pressure less effective. One senior Senate Democratic aide, speaking with FOX News, said: "It is exceedingly difficult to break through."
The four-month infusion of emergency cash is likely to fail in the Senate if it contains the troop withdrawal language, just as it has in the past, despite top leaders' efforts.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Tuesday it is now up to Republicans, placing blame squarely on them for any failure to pass the bridge fund.
"If they don't (pass the bill), it's not us taking away the bridge fund, it's their taking away the bridge fund. This bill has $50 billion in it. If the president is not willing to take that with some conditions on it ... then the president won't get his $50 billion. That's pretty clear," Reid said.
But even within his own party, Reid is not fully supported on his plan.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., who voted against the war, says the Pentagon should have its money regardless of schedules.
Levin said he would like to see the withdrawal language pass, but recognized the difficulty in getting that through the Senate. "There ought to be the funds there so the Pentagon doesn't have to reprogram money (in the defense spending bill)," he said
Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., denounced his party's attempt to "hold hostage" troop funding. Lieberman caucuses with Democrats and maintains his party affiliation, but won re-election last year after he lost the Democratic primary to an anti-war candidate.
"Unfortunately, congressional opponents of the war have responded to the growing evidence of progress in Iraq not with gratitude or relief, but with unrelenting opposition to a policy that is now clearly working. ... Anti-war advocates in Congress have remained emotionally invested in a narrative of retreat and defeat in Iraq," Lieberman said in a prepared statement.
If the bridge bill is not passed, the Pentagon would have to shift money around provided within the defense spending bill, because no money is allocated in that bill for war spending. But Senate staffers say that there is only a limited time the Pentagon can continue to shift money due to rules governing the appropriations process.
If the bridge funding bill fails this time around, it is seen as being beneficial to Democrats, because Democrats could again charge ahead on an Iraq debate possibly starting in late January, in the heat of the primary battle for presidential candidates.
A separate report Tuesday, from Politico.com, showed that of the 40 bills put up in the House by Democrats trying to stop the war, one has passed both the House and Senate. It was vetoed by President Bush.
FOX News' Trish Turner and The Associated Press contributed to this report.