Two members of President Bush’s war cabinet met with Democratic resistance Thursday when they testified on behalf of the administration’s request for a $74.7 billion supplemental spending bill to cover the initial costs of the battle in Iraq.
Speaking to the Senate Appropriations Committee, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld urged swift approval of the money as it is imperative for military actions in Iraq and other missions to fight the global war on terror.
While Rumsfeld said he can’t estimate how long the conflict in Iraq will last, or how much it will cost in total, he said the troops are depending on the extra funds.
“Whatever it ends up costing, it will be small compared to the cost in lives and treasure of another attack like the one we experienced on September 11,” Rumsfeld said.
But when the Defense secretary pressed appropriators to allow the White House greater flexibility in how the funds will be spent — citing the constant, changing circumstances of war — he ran into a stumbling block in the form of Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.).
The ranking member on Appropriations said he thought the idea of such flexible spending was “too much” to ask of Americans.
“You can count me out when you ask for these additional flexibilities,” said Byrd. “I won’t support giving a blank check to any administration.”
Earlier, during testimony from Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, some committee members questioned whether the proper money is really trickling down to state and local governments for terrorism prevention.
Senate Minority Whip Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said his state is desperate for money.
“It’s really a Catch-22 for those of us responding to our constituents,” said Reid.
Ridge agreed, saying that some of the money Congress appropriated has not been sufficiently doled out on the state level, but that his department is probing for an appropriate answer.