Obama breaks war funding promise

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates at a Pentagon news conference discussing proposed changes to the Defense budget

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Steve Chiotakis: President Obama's economic team is about to take in a lot of information at the White House this morning. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and FDIC Chairwoman Sheila Bair, among others, will be talking about stabilizing the financial sector -- including those bank stress tests, unemployment numbers and mortgage refinancing. The administration also sent an $83 billion war supplemental to Congress, hoping for a speedy response.

Marketplace's Steve Henn joins us now from Washington. Steve, I thought the president said he wouldn't use "supplemental funding requests" anymore?

Steve Henn: That's right -- Obama promised that he would fund the war in the normal budget process, and the Democrats made the same promise back in 2007 when they took over Congress. They couldn't keep it, and the White House is now saying this is absolutely the last time they'll do this, but they were forced to because the wars are only funded through about the first few months of this year. So the Pentagon's set to run out of money.

Chiotakis: So what does the supplemental include, then?

Henn: Most of the funding goes to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The big change here is that you're beginning to see a shift in resources from Iraq toward Afghanistan. Iraq still makes up the lion's share of the money, but more is going to operations along the Afghan-Pakistani border.

Chiotakis: And the president wants to pass this by Memorial Day. What are the chances of that happening?

Henn: Well, I, you know I think the administration and the Pentagon really wants this to be passed quickly, and they've also asked Congress not to sort of lard down this emergency appropriation package with special projects or weapons systems that they like. That's gonna be tough, though -- as you know, Secretary Gates unveiled his budget, and he wielded an axe to some of Congress' favorite weapons systems. So the F-22 is slated cuts, the stealth destroyer's slated for cuts, and congressional advocates of all those programs are going to look at this emergency appropriation as perhaps another chance to push through funding for their beloved projects for at least another few months.

Chiotakis: All right, we'll see where it goes. Marketplace's Steve Henn joining us in Washington. Steve, thanks.

Henn: Sure thing.

About the author

Steve Chiotakis was the host of Marketplace Morning Report until January 2012.

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