Senators Propose Making Part of Iraq Supplemental a Loan

Posted April 17, 2008 at 2:29pm

A trio of Senators announced on Thursday a plan to insert language into the Iraq supplemental spending bill that would make portions of it a loan to the Iraqi government in a bid to relieve the U.S. financial burden in Iraq.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) called the supplemental bill a “key target” of the bipartisan group of lawmakers to negotiate a loan or repayment program that would require the Iraqi government to have a greater financial role in reconstruction efforts.

“I do not think it would be unfair to ask the Iraqi government to begin shouldering more of the costs to pay for their own country,” said Collins.

Collins’ plan is supported by Sens. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Evan Bayh (D-Ind.).

The three Senators are looking at three areas where they think the Iraqis could pay more: fuel cost incurred by the U.S. military, U.S. reconstruction efforts and Iraqi military salaries. Collins noted that the Defense Department is now paying for the salaries of the Iraqi military, Sons of Iraq.

Nelson said the effort is intended to “broaden the financial responsibility” of the Iraqis.

“This would not be a form of punishment. “We want to bring the Iraqi government in in an appropriate way,” Nelson said.

The Senators noted that the administration has been receptive to making some of the reconstruction costs in the form of a loan. Office of Management and Budget Director Jim Nussle, in a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing Wednesday, said he would be open to making loans to the Iraqi government, a proposal at which President Bush initially balked.

Asked if the Republican leadership would be supportive of a repayment program, Collins said she has received support from some members of her Conference. Nelson said Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) “is supportive of the concept.”

Bayh said Congress is increasingly becoming impatient over the pace that Iraq assumes financial responsibility. He called on the president to be more proactive in pushing more of the burden to Iraq.