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Democrats Voice Concerns on Cost of War

Members of Congress met with President Bush shortly before his televised address late Monday on Iraq. The meeting came as Democrats and Republicans engaged in a heated debate about the potential cost of a war.

Lawmakers have been waiting weeks for the president to send a new request for additional money to pay for a war to disarm Iraq. That was one of the subjects of Mr. Bush's meeting with Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and Senate who would have to approve the funds.

But in the hours before the president spoke on television, Democrats continued to criticize what they call the administration's foot-dragging on getting the request to Congress. "The cost of winning this war, and winning the peace afterward, are not reflected anywhere in this budget. That is irresponsible," said Democratic Senator Patty Murray. "That is burying our head in the sand, as the danger approaches."

The top Democrat in the Senate, Tom Daschle, echoed criticism on the cost of the war, and had some harsh words for the president. "I am saddened, saddened that this President failed so miserably at diplomacy that we're now forced to war. Saddened that we have to give up one life because this president couldn't create the kind of diplomatic effort that was so critical for our country."

Republican Senator Jeff Sessions, a member of the Armed Services Committee, responded angrily to Mr. Daschle and other Democratic critics, recalling that Congress, and at that time a Democrat-controlled Senate, authorized the use of force last October. "We have a quarter of a million troops in the Iraq region, and they're prepared to put their lives at stake for us," said Senator Sessions. "And I don't think there ought to be the slightest suggestion, in any way, that we're not going to honor that commitment."

Earlier, another Democrat, Senator Carl Levin, expressed concern not only about the cost of the war, but about the possible repercussions. "The issue is not whether we will prevail militarily without U.N. support. We will," he said. "The issue is whether our long-term security will be enhanced in that circumstance, or whether chaos and instability in the Middle East, following our unilateral action, will be deep, and long, and more costly."

However, Mr. Levin said that even those who questioned the administration approach on Iraq will fully support U.S. troops facing the task of dis-arming Iraq and ousting Saddam Hussein.

Various estimates put initial costs of the war in Iraq at between $65 billion and $95 billion. The administration is not expected to send Congress that supplemental war budget request until shortly after a U.S.-led attack begins.