The White House acknowledged Monday that it substantially underestimated the cost of rebuilding Iraq and that even the additional $87 billion it was seeking from a wary Congress would fall far short of what is needed for postwar reconstruction.
Administration officials said President Bush's emergency spending request — which would push the U.S. budget deficit above the half-trillion-dollar mark for the first time — still left a reconstruction funding gap of as much as $55 billion.
On the Senate floor, Sen. Tom Harkin (news, bio, voting record), D-Iowa, said there isn't enough money to meet Bush's own education goals, "and yet we're going to ask the American taxpayers to keep coughing up money for this quagmire that we're in now in Iraq."
"This may not be Vietnam, but boy, it sure smells like it," he said. "And every time I see these bills coming down for the money, it's costing like Vietnam, too."
Sen. Joseph Biden (news, bio, voting record) of Delaware, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, is demanding that tax cuts for the wealthiest taxpayers be postponed — a proposal likely to face strong Republican opposition.
"Is this still a sacrificeless undertaking except those we send to Iraq?" he said in an interview. "Or is there actually something that Americans are going to be asked to do?"
Some lawmakers also said the $20 billion for Iraqi reconstruction would receive particular scrutiny. Levin said that money would be wasted if the Bush administration doesn't make a serious effort to secure help from other nations. Administration officials say they want international participation, but it's not clear how much authority they are willing to cede in Iraq to secure it.
"If we don't get other countries involved, if we don't make a serious effort in the U.N., which other countries say is essential for their participation, then it increases the chances that the reconstruction money will be ineffective," he said.
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