Canton Repository

September 17, 2003

More money for Iraq: Why?

Copley Washington correspondent

WASHINGTON — President Bush’s request for another $87 billion in funding for Iraq is drawing skepticism from Republicans as well as Democrats in Ohio.

Rep. Bob Ney, R-St. Clairsville, has backed the president on most issues. He continues to support Bush’s decision to invade Iraq. But he isn’t sure the $87 billion request is reasonable.

“I support the troops obviously,” he said. But Ney wants to know why Iraq can’t pay for its own reconstruction. The president’s request includes $20 billion for rebuilding the country.

“If this money is going to be spent, why can’t there be a commitment that the new Iraqi government that is coming ... pay this back in oil revenue?” Ney said. “We need a lot more details before I can make a decision on it.”

Rep. Ralph Regula, R-Bethlehem Township, contends that Congress has little choice but to provide the funding.

“Our troops are there, we have to take care of them and we have to spend money to reconstruct Iraq,” he said.

Many lawmakers, including Ney, were surprised by the magnitude of the request. It came on top of $79 billion that Congress approved last April to support continuing military operations in Iraq.

Area Democrats, who voted against the congressional resolution authorizing military action, remain critical of the war while stressing their support for the troops.

Rep. Sherrod Brown, D-Lorain, said now that the United States has taken control of Iraq, “I think we have some responsibility in that country.”

Brown said he could support the entire request if the administration provides assurance on several points. He wants more focus on troop safety, including supplying soldiers with protective vests, he said.

The president’s request includes funds for improved body armor.

Brown also wants to see the president’s exit strategy. He also insists that the United States recruit several large countries such as France or Germany to join the effort.

Rep. Ted Strickland, D-Lucasville, supports aid to the troops but said he is “disinclined to support any further spending” on reconstruction. “There are so many unmet needs here at home,” he said. “I do not understand how this president can be so generous in his request for Iraq and so stingy with our people.”

Republican Sens. George Voinovich and Mike DeWine support the request but say they are reviewing the details.

In an interview on Fox News earlier this week, Voinovich encouraged the administration to go to the United Nations and “get as many countries as possible to participate and help.”

Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Warren, was unavailable to discuss his views on Iraq.

Ney expressed concern about the lengthening deployments of reserve troops. He said he’s received several hundred e-mails from troops since the war began. Many in the reserves have expressed concern about the length of their deployments.

Regula hopes the United Nations can be persuaded to “carry part of the burden.” So far, most nations have balked at participating unless the United States puts the U.N. in control.

Even if the U.N. gets involved, “there still is going to be a big expense to reconstruct,” Regula said.

Administration officials have acknowledged that billions more will be needed in Iraq.