Bush demands quick action on war supplemental

President Bush Tuesday called on Congress to move "quickly and responsibly" in considering the fiscal 2003 war supplemental over the next few weeks.

"The supplemental should not be viewed as an opportunity to add spending that is unrelated, unwise and unnecessary," said Bush, outlining his request during remarks at the Pentagon. "Every dollar we spend must serve the interests of our nation, and the interests of our nation in this supplemental is to win this war and to be able to keep the peace."

The White House request for $74.7 billion includes $62.6 billion for the Pentagon to move troops, maintain equipment and replenish the supply of smart bombs and cruise missiles. About $60 billion of that would go into a general war trust fund, of which "at least" $53.4 billion would to go military operations in Iraq, $3.7 billion would go to munitions replenishment, $1.7 billion would be for classified activities and $1.1 billion for equipment procurement and research and development.

The other $2.7 billion in specified money would go to countries supporting the war in Iraq and other anti-terrorism efforts, cover the cost of fuel, build military facilities in Guantanamo Bay, and even supplement anti-narcotics efforts in Colombia.

Bush also asked for $4.25 billion for increased domestic security, of which about $3.5 billion would go to the Homeland Security Department. About $2 billion would go directly to states, while $1.5 billion would be shared among federal departments to beef up border, airport and maritime security.

Another $500 million would be for the FBI's counter-terrorism efforts, with the final $250 million slated for a trust fund to address "immediate and emerging" terrorist threats.

The House Appropriations Committee will take testimony this week from Pentagon officials, Homeland Security Department officials and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage on the supplemental. The committee then will move early next week to a full markup, in anticipation of passing the House by the end of next week in order to meet Bush's April 11 deadline for completing action on the bill.

"I will move the president's supplemental request through the House as quickly as I can because I know the importance of this bill to the men and women of the military," said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Bill Young, R-Fla. He added that he had assurances from the House leadership that the supplemental will have "priority consideration" on the floor, something echoed today by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas.

On the other side of the Capitol, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, is looking to hold a hearing with Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge this week if possible and would probably mark up the package next week, according to a GOP appropriations source.

While both Young and Stevens have said they will try to meet Bush's goal of keeping extraneous provisions from being tacked onto the supplemental, it may not be easy. An aide to Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., said Democrats would try to boost the $4.25 billion request for new homeland security spending to at least $8 billion or $10 billion-something many Republicans may go along with.

Senate Democrats also may push to include new funding for state and local security projects to protect the nation's water infrastructure from terrorist attacks, according to lobbyists and Senate sources. Although the total amount that may be sought is unclear, state and local officials have continued to lobby the White House and Congress for new funding since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Democrats also will be watching for administration or GOP attempts to use the supplemental to push through environmental exemptions for the Defense Department. Republican congressional leaders, as well as the White House, have made these exemptions from the Clean Air Act, Endangered Species Act and federal marine mammal protections a priority, arguing the rules cripple the military's ability to properly train.

Although it is unclear whether the exemptions will be inserted in the supplemental package sent to Capitol Hill, Democrats at the very least expect GOP lawmakers to attempt to insert the provisions during the abbreviated committee consideration of the bill.