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Emergency war funding must stop

John Dimsdale Dec 6, 2006

KAI RYSSDAL: The latest offering from Random House hit bookshelves today. Taking a page from the 9/11 Commission, the Iraq Study Group’s offering its work for sale as a paperback — $10.95’s the list price. But the dollar amounts the report talks about are quite a bit higher. The group called on the President to reinstate normal budget rules to pay for the war. It said the President’s way of paying the bills so far has been confusing and doesn’t serve the public interest.

Our Washington Bureau Chief John Dimsdale has the story.

JOHN DIMSDALE: The 10-member Iraq Study Group says emergency war funding bills bypass congressional review and therefore erode discipline and accountability. That’s music to the ears of Senate Budget Committee Chairman Judd Gregg who’s been making just that argument. The Republican from New Hampshire supported the initial off-budget war-spending requests from the White House.

JUDD GREGG: But after a year-and-a-half or two years, we should have been able to build these into the basic budget. But it was much more convenient for the Administration and, specifically, the Pentagon to fund this outside the budget because it involves less committees looking at it, less oversight.

The Iraq commission recommends that the Pentagon submit a comprehensive war spending plan for 2008 when the full budget request goes to Congress in February. But military budget analyst Dan Goure at the Lexington Institute says there’s no way Pentagon planners can accurately predict war-related costs that far ahead.

DAN GOURE: We’ve seen what oversight brings you. Oversight can bring you some good stuff. It can also bring you the most enormous micromanaging by staffers in the committees. That is fun and games in peace time, but threatens to cost lives during a war.

Asked today what the ultimate cost of the war might be, Iraq Study Group co-chairman Lee Hamilton says it could top a trillion dollars — or more than twice what’s been spent so far.

But budget Chairman Judd Gregg says if we cut troop levels, as the group recommends, the total cost will be more like three-quarters of a trillion.

In Washington, I’m John Dimsdale for Marketplace.

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