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Bush Urges Congressional Action On War Funds

President Bush is pushing the U.S. Congress to give him the extra money he says is needed for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. But as VOA's Paula Wolfson reports from the White House, Democrats on Capitol Hill are citing new concerns about the cost of the conflicts.

The president has a pending request on Capitol Hill for $50 billion in additional military spending.

He says the money is needed now. "Congress's responsibility is clear: It should not go home for the Christmas holidays without giving our troops on the frontlines the funds they need to succeed," he said.

In a speech to business leaders in the state of Indiana, the president acknowledged congressional opposition to his Iraq policy. But he made clear lawmakers have an obligation to provide the military with the resources needed in the midst of an ongoing conflict. "Nobody likes war. I understand that. And I understand some were critical of the decision I made, and that is okay. But whatever their position on the war is, we should be able to agree that our troops deserve the full support of those of us in Washington, D.C," he said.

War opponents in Congress have long cited the high cost of the war in terms of American lives. Now they are also raising concerns about the cost in dollars.

Democrats on the House-Senate Joint Economic Committee say most Americans have no idea of - what they call - the "hidden costs" of the war. Shortly before the president spoke in Indiana, they released a report that says the actual price tag for the period from 2002 to 2008 may be roughly double the $804 billion requested by the president. They say that figure does not include major long-term expenses such as interest payments on war debt.

Senator Charles Schumer, the top Democrat on the Joint Economic Committee, says the total cost to American taxpayers so far has been $1.6 trillion for both Iraq and Afghanistan.

"We know that the immense budget costs for the war are putting us more and more into debt and that is financed by borrowing. The hidden costs of the Iraq war take into account the full cost stemming from that excessive borrowing, the instability in world oil markets, the future care of injured veterans, the necessary retooling of our military and other factors," he said.

At a Capitol Hill new conference, Schumer warned that not only will his post World War II generation be stuck with the bills for the war, but so too will generations to come. "We of the baby-boom generation and our children and grandchildren will be paying for this war for a very long time to come. What this report makes crystal clear is that the cost to our country in lives lost and dollars spent is tragically unacceptable," he said.

The congressional report was prepared without any participation by Republicans on the panel. And the White House dismissed it as politically motivated.

The president's supplemental war spending request is expected to come up for consideration in the House of Representatives on Wednesday and some Democrats say they will use the opportunity to press once again for a troop withdrawal.