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2008 Bush Budget Heads To Capitol Hill

04 February 2007

President Bush's proposed 2008 federal budget is delivered to the U.S. Congress Monday. VOA's Paula Wolfson reports, it is expected to include billions of dollars more for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Trucks carrying copies of the budget request are expected to arrive on Capitol Hill not long after dawn, setting off the annual battle over federal spending.

Details of the request have not been released. But the head of the White House Office of Management and Budget, Rob Portman, confirms the budget proposal includes $145 billion for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2008, along with a request for an additional $100 billion for the current 2007 fiscal year.

"We are being very prudent here," said Rob Portman. "We are giving Congress exactly what Congress asked for on a bipartisan basis: more transparency as to our costs and more information."

During an appearance on CNN's Late Edition program, Portman stressed that, for the first time, costs for the war are being submitted in detail to Congress, along with the rest of the president's budget proposal.

In the past, war costs have been considered largely on an as-needed basis, as emergency spending legislation. Portman acknowledged it is difficult to predict some military expenditures months in advance, but added, the administration is now doing all it can to get good spending projections to Congress as part of the regular budget process.

"For the first time, it will be as part of the budget," he said. "And, it is very important to note, these costs are included in our deficit calculations."

There are indications the White House will propose cuts in some popular domestic programs to help offset increased military spending. But the president's chief economic advisor, Ed Lazear, predicts it will be possible to keep cuts to a minimum, fund the war, and bring down the current budget deficit.

Lazear discussed the budget process during an interview on C-SPAN, a non-profit cable television channel that specializes in coverage of government.

"Because the economy has been so strong, it has given us a bit more flexibility, in terms of our ability to keep our expenditure level consistent with funding the war on terror, and still have the deficit come down," said Ed Lazear.

But some members of Congress have doubts. Senator Diane Feinstein, a California Democrat, told CNN Congress will scrutinize the escalating costs of the war, but not at the expense of the safety of U.S. military personnel.

"That is a big problem, and we will take a very, very close look at it," said Diane Feinstein. "But, when it comes to cutting off [funding for the war], nobody wants to cut off somebody's body armor, humvee [armored troop vehicle], or somebody's ability to sustain themselves in Baghdad."

The requests for war-related spending in this budget come on top of about $344 billion spent for Iraq since the 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

Congressional consideration of the president's 2008 budget request will begin Tuesday, with the first hearing scheduled before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

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