Bush Budget Hikes War Funding
Friday, February 2, 2007; 10:14 PM
WASHINGTON -- Keeping troops in Iraq for another year and a half will cost nearly a quarter-trillion dollars _ about $800 for every man, woman and child in the U.S. _ under the budget President Bush will submit to Congress Monday.
Bush will ask for $100 billion more for military and diplomatic operations in Iraq and Afghanistan this year and seek $145 billion for 2008, a senior Pentagon official said Friday. Those requests come on top of about $344 billion spent for Iraq since the 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.
At the same time, Bush's budget request will propose cost curbs on Medicare providers, a cap on subsidy payments to wealthier farmers and an increase to $4,600 in the maximum Pell Grant for low-income college students.
Bush's proposal, totaling almost $3 trillion for the budget year starting Oct. 1, will kick off a major debate with the new Democratic-controlled Congress. Democrats are sure to press for more money for domestic programs, and they've signaled they won't consider renewing Bush's tax cuts until closer to 2010, when they are to expire.
The White House plan will produce a surplus in 2012, budget director Rob Portman said Friday _ assuming strong growth in tax revenues, continued curbs on domestic agencies' spending and relatively modest cuts to farm programs, Medicare and the Medicaid health care program for the poor and disabled.
Bush's plan assumes Congress extends the two rounds of tax cuts that were passed in 2001 and 2003.
Portman said Bush's budget submission contains about a 1 percentage point cut in the rapid growth in Medicare _ which averages almost 8 percent a year without changes _ to squeeze about $66 billion in savings over five years from the federal health care program for the elderly.
Bush would curb payments to health care providers such as hospitals, and would require more of the higher-income recipients to pay greater premiums.
"We need to get these unsustainable growth rates under control," Portman said, noting that Congress passed more ambitious cuts in 1997, when President Clinton and a GOP-controlled Congress enacted more than $160 billion in Medicare savings. "This is a good first step."
However, Congress has since given back much of the 1997 savings, particularly cuts in doctors' fees. Smaller cuts proposed last year got nowhere in a Congress controlled by Republicans.
The requests, to be released Monday, would bring war spending for fiscal 2007 to about $170 billion, with the $145 billion for 2008 representing a decline.
The additional request for the current year includes $93.4 billion for the Pentagon and $6 billion for foreign aid and State Department costs _ on top of $70 billion approved by Congress in September.