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White House Requests $25 Billion To Finance Troops in Middle East

By Stephen J. Glain

The Boston Globe -- washington

The Bush administration told Congress Wednesday it would seek an additional $25 billion to finance military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, breaking its pledge to resist such a move before the November presidential election.

Though lawmakers from both parties welcomed the request, many said it was inadequate, pointing out that the White House itself said earlier this year to expect a funding bill that could total $50 billion.

“This is a partial payment at most,” said Representative John M. Spratt, a South Carolina Democrat and ranking member of the House Budget Committee.

Spratt and other legislators said they were informed Wednesday morning by White House Budget Director Joshua Bolten that the White House would submit its third special request for war funding as part of its budget proposal for fiscal 2005, which begins Oct. 1. Pressure on the Bush administration for additional spending had been building even from Republicans as prolonged fighting in Iraq depleted existing funds.

“It was clear there were resources our men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan needed and the other members of the armed services committee brought this to their attention and they responded,” said Michael Conallen, the chief of staff to Representative Curt Weldon, a Pennsylvania Republican and vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

The White House request is expected to be formally submitted in about 30 days, said officials on Capitol Hill, and would be provided as a “reserve,” or off-budget, spending bill that would resemble the previous two supplemental funding requests totaling $149 billion. Spratt, whose aids have closely compared the costs of the Iraq war against the money allocated to finance it, said he estimates the conflict is costing $75 billion at an annual rate. The additional $25 billion would last until March, he said, making a fourth spending bill inevitable.