Bush to Present Supplemental Request Monday Afternoon

Senate Still Working Through Budget Amendments

Posted March 24, 2003 at 1:20pm

Congressional leaders who have been clamoring for a war cost estimate will get one Monday afternoon when they meet with President Bush.

Democrats especially have been frustrated by the administration’s unwillingness to give even a ballpark figure before today.

Earlier reports that the president would seek $80 billion have been shot down by the White House. Now, appropriators anticipate the supplemental spending request to fall somewhere between $70 billion and $100 billion. They will work quickly to move a bill to the floor after the president makes his formal request of House and Senate leaders and key committee chairmen at 4 p.m.

Last week, Senate Appropriations Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) said Congress should finish the supplemental before breaking April 11 for the two-week spring recess. It is also expected that money for on-going operations in Afghanistan, humanitarian aid for Iraq and emergency personnel at home will be included in the spending package.

Bush is scheduled to head to the Pentagon on Tuesday to unveil his war-spending request to the public.

Meanwhile, the Senate is aiming to vote on its budget blueprint Wednesday. The House already adopted a fiscal 2004 budget resolution, absent any war funding.

While the main effort to scale back the president’s $726 billion tax-cut package — led by Sen. John Breaux (D-La.) — failed Friday, the Senate still has 80 amendments to slog through before voting on a final package.

Democrats are expected to try to add funding for homeland security, as well as highlight their belief that cutting taxes while deficits mount and war rages is unwise.

They were successful Friday in passing an amendment sponsored by Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) that reduces the tax cut by $100 billion and funnels that money into a war reserve fund.

Republicans were still trying to find the votes to undo the amendment but may be unable to do so once Bush formally makes his supplemental request.

Congressional leaders were tight-lipped Monday about what they expected Bush to say.

According to a House aide, they were asked to stay quiet until after the meeting.