Afghanistan adds to Obama’s in­creas­ingly pricey plans

The Washington Times Weekly - - National Security - BY S.A. MILLER

Pres­i­dent Obama’s plan to up the ante in the Afghanistan war faces a ma­jor ob­sta­cle in Congress: pay­ing the tab.

The pres­i­dent in­sists that law­mak­ers should not put a price tag on na­tional se­cu­rity, but ev­ery item on Mr. Obama’s am­bi­tious agenda — from health care re­form to an­other pro­posed jobcre­ation bill — is threat­ened by the grim bud­get re­al­ity of a stagnant econ­omy, colos­sal deficits and record lev­els of pub­lic debt.

Top Democrats say they will fund the war with a sup­ple­men­tal spending bill out­side the reg­u­lar ap­pro­pri­a­tions process, likely spark­ing a bud­get bat­tle within the pres­i­dent’s own party over wars that al­ready cost tax­pay­ers nearly $11 bil­lion a month.

House Ma­jor­ity Leader Steny H. Hoyer, Mary­land Demo­crat, said Dec. 1 that ev­ery mem­ber of the Demo­cratic cau­cus will be ask­ing whether the pres­i­dent’s war plan is “worth the in­vest­ment.”

“There is sig­nif­i­cant con­cern about whether or not we can be suc­cess­ful in Afghanistan,” Mr. Hoyer told re­porters, “that the in- vest­ment in do­ing so will be ing spree co­in­cides with a record worth the in­vest­ment.” $1.4 tril­lion fed­eral deficit in fis

Mr. Obama’s plan to send cal 2009, more than the deficits about 30,000 more U.S. troops to from the pre­vi­ous four years Afghanistan, es­ti­mated to cost an com­bined. That helped push U.S. ex­tra $30 bil­lion next year, adds debt, mostly to for­eign pow­ers to the red ink spread by the $787 such as China, to al­most $12 tril­bil­lion stim­u­lus pack­age, the $700 lion. bil­lion Wall Street bailout (imD­eficit spending and the en­su­ple­mented un­der Pres­i­dent ing debt can help in­crease ecoGe­orge W. Bush), a pro­posed nomic growth dur­ing a re­ces­sion. nearly $1 tril­lion health care The idea of an­other stim­u­lus over­haul, ex­panded job­less ben­pack­age re­ceived a boost Nov. 30 efits, and a grow­ing groundswell when the non­par­ti­san Con­gres­for an­other eco­nomic stim­u­lus sional Bud­get Of­fice is­sued a repack­age that Democrats have port that found the $787 bil­lion dubbed a “jobs bill.” pack­age en­acted in Fe­bru­ary had

Mr. Obama vowed to ad­dress lifted U.S. gross do­mes­tic prod­uct cost con­cerns with Congress. by 1 per­cent to 3 per­cent and had

“All told, by the time I took ofraised em­ploy­ment by 600,000 to fice, the cost of the wars in Iraq 1.6 mil­lion jobs through the end and Afghanistan ap­proached $1 of Septem­ber. tril­lion. Go­ing for­ward, I am comHow­ever, the long-term con­semit­ted to ad­dress­ing th­ese costs quences for the econ­omy of the openly and hon­estly,” Mr. Obama spending sprees could be dire. said when un­veil­ing his war plan Risks in­clude ris­ing in­ter­est rates in a prime-time, tele­vised adand a fall­ing value for the U.S. dol­dress on Dec. 1. lar.

“Our new ap­proach in aw­mak­ers will be asked to Afghanistan is likely to cost us raise the debt ceil­ing an­other $1 roughly $30 bil­lion for the mil­itril­lion be­fore Congress ad­journs tary this year, and I will work this year. The move is re­quired to closely with Congress to ad­dress pre­vent the United States from th­ese costs as we work to bring de­fault­ing on its debt pay­ments, down our deficit.” but a bi­par­ti­san group of more

The ad­min­is­tra­tion´s spend-than a dozen se­na­tors is threaten- ing to op­pose rais­ing the ceil­ing un­less Congress passes leg­is­la­tion to cut the deficit.

Democrats also are painfully aware of the crit­i­cism they heaped upon the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion for fund­ing the Iraq and Afghanistan con­flicts with sup­ple­men­tal spending bills that they said ob­scured the costs of the wars and drove up deficits and debt.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion’s re­quest also con­flicts with state­ments by the Obama White House ear­lier this year that an “emer­gency” sup­ple­men­tal spending bill to fund op­er­a­tions in Iraq and Afghanistan for the bal­ance of the 2009 fis­cal year would be the last time the process would be em­ployed.

“This will be the last sup­ple­men­tal for Iraq and Afghanistan,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said in April. “The process by which this has been funded in the past [. . . ] will change, and this will be the last time.”

The sup­ple­men­tal war-spending bill for Mr. Obama’s new Afghanistan of­fen­sive is ex­pected to go be­fore law­mak­ers early next year and spark heated de­bate over the war strat­egy and its cost.

Spending bills tra­di­tion­ally bring war de­bates to the fore in Congress. In re­cent years, Democrats used them to chal­lenge Mr. Bush’s war pol­icy for Iraq with failed at­tempts to cut off funds or im­pose timeta­bles to wind down the U.S. en­gage­ment.

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, at­tacks, Congress has ap­proved roughly $944 bil­lion for mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions — vir­tu­ally all of that for Iraq and Afghanistan — with Iraq get­ting about 72 per­cent of the money. At the peak of the troop surge in Iraq in 2008, the wars cost $180 bil­lion.

The cost has since de­clined, with Mr. Obama re­quest­ing about $130 bil­lion for 2010 to fight both wars. Congress is still de­bat­ing the fi­nal 2010 de­fense spending bill, which is the first time the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were in­cluded in the reg­u­lar ap­pro­pri­a­tions bills.

“Un­for­tu­nately over the last eight years, we’ve been fund­ing th­ese mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions by deficit spending and we can’t keep do­ing that, not only in mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions but also in ev­ery other pro­gram,” said Sen. Jack Reed, Rhode Is­land Demo­crat. “We’ve got to be con­cerned.”

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