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Congress Assures Rumsfeld of Speedy Approval of War Budget - 2003-03-27


U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld received assurances from lawmakers that they would quickly approve a request for $75 billion to pay for the U.S.-led war in Iraq. But some Democrats criticized limits the administration wants to impose on Congress on how the money is to be spent. Secretary Rumsfeld told the Senate Appropriations Committee that the war has been a success so far. But he cautioned the campaign could grow more dangerous in the coming days and weeks as the forces close in on Baghdad.

The secretary said because of the uncertainties surrounding the war, including its duration and the extent of combat damage, it was important the administration have flexibility in how the funding for the war is spent.

"We need the funds, we need the flexibility as to how they are spent so we can adapt to the unknowable circumstances that are unfolding in the weeks and months ahead," Mr. Rumsfeld said.

But some Democrats, underscoring Congress' constitutional power to control spending, demanded a say in how the funds are used.

"The people have a right to know how their money is being spent, and to believe that they are being spent prudently," said Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia, the top Democrat on the committee.

Secretary Rumsfeld said the Congress would be notified of how the funds would be used.

Most of the $75 billion request is going directly to the war effort, with a fraction going to aid allies in the region and to boost homeland security in the United States.

On the issue of the cost of the post-war reconstruction of Iraq, Secretary Rumsfeld suggested there would be an international donors conference to raise money for the effort. He also said he believed Iraq's oil revenue and Iraqi assets frozen by the United States earlier this month also would help pay for rebuilding the country.