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Congressional Opponents Step Up Criticism of Possible Iraq War - 2003-02-04

Congressional opponents of a possible U.S.-led war to disarm Iraq are stepping up their criticism of the Bush administration, as Secretary of State Colin Powell prepares to present new information on Wednesday to the United Nations. The renewed criticism comes as the Bush administration presents its budget for 2004.

Congressman Dennis Kucinich says conflict in Iraq will mean cutbacks in domestic programs, such as health and education - a burden, he says, the American people should not be asked to shoulder.

He and other critics have alleged that oil interests are partly behind the administration's push to disarm Iraq.

The Ohio lawmaker says he is introducing legislation that would require U.S. oil companies to pay a tax on what he calls "excess profits" resulting from any conflict in Iraq.

"Why should the American people pay for a war that is going to benefit the oil companies? It's not going to do anything to limit terrorism in the world," Rep. Kucinich said. "In fact, such a war could increase the possibility of terrorism. It's going to wreck the federal budget, because the cost of a war will be anywhere from $200 billion to $1 trillion."

Mr. Kucinich acknowledges that a key purpose of his legislation, called the National Defense Oil Equity Act, is to "keep the debate going in Congress" about Iraq.

Congressman Jay Inslee is among other Democrats in the House of Representatives calling for containment of Saddam Hussein rather than pre-emptive military action.

"We should continue with patience and resolution, this course of tight and robust, aggressive inspections for as long as it takes to disarm Iraq," he said. "That is the course we should continue."

The Bush administration strongly rejects criticism from Mr. Kucinich and others that one of its key goals in any conflict with Iraq is to control Iraq's large oil reserves.

As for criticism that the administration has failed to make the case for military action, White House Spokesman Ari Fleischer told reporters Secretary of State Powell's presentation to the U.N. Security Council Wednesday should clear up remaining doubts.

"The president wants this information shared publicly, so that individual Americans can exercise their own right to tune in and make their own evaluations, as citizens of our democracy, about what it is the government knows, in the event the president decides to use force," he said.

The Bush administration's budget director, Mitch Daniels, told reporters the potential cost of a war in Iraq was not built in to the president's 2004 budget sent to Congress.

Mr. Daniels said the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is prepared to consult with Congress, if President Bush decides U.S.-led military action is necessary to disarm Iraq.

If the White House determines additional funding is required, either for Iraq or operations in Afghanistan or elsewhere in the war on terror, it could make this part of a "supplemental" spending request to Congress.