Accessibility links

US Senate Seeks More Oversight of $25 Billion for Iraq, Afghanistan - 2004-06-02

The U.S. Senate Wednesday night unanimously approved President Bush's request to create a $25 billion reserve fund for U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. But the Senate also voted to put tight controls on how the money could be used.

Legislation to create the fund is contained in an amendment to a broader defense authorization bill for the next budget year beginning October 1.

In proposing the reserve fund last month, President Bush sought maximum flexibility in how the money could be spent.

Acting Defense Comptroller Lawrence Lanzillotta told a Senate Appropriations subcommittee earlier Wednesday that such flexibility is essential to allow the military to respond to unexpected changes on the ground. "What we would like to have is the general transfer authority necessary that if the situation would change on the ground, we would have sufficient flexibility with notification to Congress to make those changes," he said.

But lawmakers insisted on tighter congressional oversight of money spent in Iraq after reports earlier this year that U.S. officials used money approved for the war on terrorism to prepare for going to war in Iraq without telling Congress.

So the Senate voted to restrict the president's say in how the $25 billion would be used to 10 percent of the package, or $2.5 billion.

Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said "the language which was submitted to us, which we are now deleting, would have in effect given the administration, the Department of Defense, a blank check."

The House approved creation of the reserve fund last month, but without the controls imposed by the Senate.

Differences in the legislation will have to be resolved before it reaches President Bush's desk for his signature.

Meanwhile, money for the fund has yet to be appropriated. That will be done in separate spending bills now working their way through House and Senate committees.