As Hill awaits Iraq supplemental, Dems push homeland spending

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, said Tuesday that he expects the administration to submit a fiscal 2003 supplemental spending bill to cover the cost of a war with Iraq either later this week or early next week. Democrats, meanwhile, demanded that whatever supplemental the White House puts forward include new money for homeland security spending, especially given the government's new terrorist warnings.

With less than 24 hours remaining before President Bush's deadline for war expires, the White House remained unwilling late Tuesday to place any estimate on the cost of a war with Iraq. Reacting to published reports that Congress may face a $90 billion supplemental budget request to pay for a war with Iraq, White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer repeated the position that the cost of a war, if it comes, can only be estimated after hostilities have begun, based on the amount of resistance encountered and duration of combat. Fleischer also denied that the president had cited a $90 billion figure-one of the many estimates for the cost of the supplemental-during a Monday meeting with congressional leaders.

Stevens declined to speculate on the cost of the supplemental, but said he expects it to include money for conducting the war and possibly additional funds for homeland security efforts. Any money needed for post-war reconstruction likely would wait until a second supplemental request later this year.

Stevens told the GOP Conference Tuesday that it was imperative to move quickly on the supplemental when it is submitted and that it was his intention to get a conference report completed by the time Congress recesses in mid-April.

"A delay is the worst thing that could happen," Stevens said. "The military needs this money now."

Meanwhile, Senate Democrats today called on the administration to include as much as $7 billion in new homeland security spending in the supplemental and said they will offer amendments to the budget resolution to boost homeland security spending over 10 years by between $20 billion and $100 billion.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., said she sent a letter to the White House Tuesday asking that $7 billion for homeland security should be attached to the supplemental-$5 billion for first responders, $1 billion for a reserve fund that communities could use to help make up for funding shortfalls and another $1 billion for "high-risk" cities, like New York and Washington.

"These are wartime expenses, and they should be covered as such," Clinton said.

Clinton's New York counterpart, Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer, also indicated that Democrats were working on a comprehensive homeland security amendment that they plan to offer to the fiscal 2004 budget resolution. He said exact details were still being worked out with Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D.

Mike Zuckerman contributed to this report.