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The Costs of War

As the Senate begins moving on the latest military supplemental spending bill, congressional Democrats are mounting a new push to highlight the growing cost of the Iraq war and its affects on funding for domestic priorities.

House and Senate Democratic leaders gathered today to tout new data from the Joint Economic Committee (illustrated in these charts) that breaks down spending on Iraq in a number of increments -- $434 million per day, $3 billion per week and $13.2 billion per month -- and then outlines how that money could instead be used to pay for X number of teachers, police officers, border patrol agents, and so on.

"The president has not been honest about the cost of the war from the very beginning," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), as he and other Democrats suggested the Bush administration was "unwilling" or even "afraid" to send any officials to testify before the JEC on the costs of the war.

"We say to the administration, if you say the JEC's numbers are wrong, come and debate us," said Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), the economic panel's chairman.

Office of Management and Budget spokeswoman Corinne Hirsch pointed out that OMB Director Jim Nussle testified today before the Senate Appropriations Committee on the supplemental and discussed the costs of the war at that session. "He thinks it was a very constructive conversation today before Senate Approps, and he is confident that it would not be as constructive to testify before the Joint Economic Committee," Hirsch said.

Senate Republicans also suggested that Schumer was using his position as JEC chairman for political purposes, as he is also chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

This Democratic message push is related to the party's separate argument about whether spending on Iraq has helped to cause America's current economic woes. While that point is about assigning blame for broader economic problems, today's event was about positioning for the upcoming fight on the Iraq supplemental bill. Democrats plan to exceed Bush's request for that measure and may tack on some domestic items, while Bush has said he would veto a bill that doesn't meet his conditions. Nussle reiterated that point today at the Senate Appropriations hearing on the Iraq supplemental.

That threat prompted some typically tough language from Reid.

"The president, after all this time -- seven-plus years -- you'd think he'd understand that he is not King George, he is President George, and he should work with us," Reid said.

By Ben Pershing  |  April 16, 2008; 3:50 PM ET
Categories:  Branch vs. Branch , Iraq , Purse Strings  
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