Defense hawks seek $29B for Kosovo supplemental

House GOP defense hawks today upped the ante on funding for the military operation in Yugoslavia, brandishing a chart after a Republican Conference meeting showing $29 billion should be appropriated in the Kosovo supplemental to bolster military readiness around the globe.

That amount is far above President Clinton's $6 billion request for defense and humanitarian emergency spending, and higher even than the $16 billion to $18 billion some House conservatives advocate.

"We're going to give him more than he wants, we're going to give him what it takes," said Armed Services Military Procurement Subcommittee Chairman Duncan Hunter, R-Calif.

Hunter said the $29 billion is what the armed services chiefs say they need to meet short-term military needs and carry out the Kosovo mission. The $29 billion not only would cover the costs of the Kosovo mission, but is intended to restore the nation's ability to fight two wars simultaneously-which GOP leaders say has been damaged by meager White House funding requests over the years.

GOP leaders have not endorsed a specific amount, but GOP Conference Chairman J.C. Watts of Oklahoma, Armed Services Chairman Spence and GOP Conference Vice Chairwoman Tillie Fowler of Florida, appeared with Hunter during his presentation.

In separate comments, Majority Whip Tom DeLay, R-Texas, said he considers the White House's $6 billion request "woefully insufficient to restore national security to this country."

Hunter's cost estimate appears to go beyond what Appropriations Chairman Young thinks is politically feasible. Young said that while that amount of military shortfall was justifiable, "whether or not I could justify all of it as an emergency is questionable."

Rep. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who co-chairs the Conservative Action Team's task force on Kosovo, reacted to Hunter's request by saying, "I see the tooth fairy brings $100 bills to your house too."

Coburn said he still believes the Kosovo supplemental should cost between $16 billion to $18 billion, which he said is the JCS estimates of their current defense needs.

In a related matter, House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., today joined Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, in saying that a military pay increase is "not in my plan right now"-a position at odds with Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., who wants one included in the supplemental.

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