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Bush urges Congress to approve spending bill for war

Figure covers 30 days of combat

President Bush, right, talks with Pentagon personnel during his departure from the Pentagon on Tuesday.
President Bush, right, talks with Pentagon personnel during his departure from the Pentagon on Tuesday.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Calling on Congress to "act quickly and responsibly," President Bush on Tuesday outlined a $74.7 billion emergency spending request that he called "directly related to winning this war."

He urged lawmakers to approve the measure without loading it down with "unrelated, unwise and unnecessary" additions, but some members said more funds were needed for homeland security and the airline industry.

Speaking at the Pentagon, Bush saluted coalition forces for their "steady advance" in Iraq.

"We cannot know the duration of this war; yet, we know it's outcome," Bush said. "We will prevail. The Iraqi regime will be disarmed. The Iraqi regime will be ended. The Iraqi people will be free. And our world will be more secure and peaceful."(Transcript)

The administration also confirmed that British Prime Minister Tony Blair would travel to the United States for war strategy talks with Bush; Blair and Bush will spend Wednesday night at the Camp David presidential retreat and then hold formal talks on Thursday.

A senior administration official said the war budget request is for the remaining six-months of the current fiscal year. Spending beyond that -- including significant peacekeeping costs -- will be factored into the fiscal 2004 budget that Congress will consider in the coming months.

The president said the spending request covers both the Iraqi conflict and the "global war against terror." The money, he said, will pay for weapons, military support and transportation, as well as some relief efforts for Iraq and other nations. It also includes funds for homeland security.(White House breakdown)

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld cautioned that the $74.7 billion figure should not be viewed as the tab for the war in Iraq. He said the war's cost was "not knowable" because its duration is unknown.

'The down payment'

That point was underscored by lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

"I'm concerned that the American public is rapidly being given the impression that this is the bill for the war," said Rep. David Obey, D-Wisconsin. "It's not. It's the down payment for the bill for the war. and (by) that I mean you ain't seen nothing yet in terms of the costs that are going to be coming at us."

Bush traveled to the Pentagon at mid-morning and received a classified briefing from Rumsfeld and other senior Pentagon officials before his public remarks.

The estimate for the supplemental includes nearly $63 billion for military operations, based on a Pentagon estimate of 30 days of combat, according to administration and congressional sources.

It also includes:

• About $8 billion for assistance to countries affected by the war, including $2.5 billion for relief and reconstruction of Iraq. Countries that would receive aid include Jordan, Israel, Turkey, Egypt, Afghanistan, the Philippines and Colombia.

• Roughly $4 billion for homeland security.

Congressional aides and lawmakers said the administration's request will likely be the first of several. Bush, they said, wants congressional approval by April 11.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tennessee, told reporters that the Senate would approve the White House request.

Some lawmakers, including House Speaker Dennis Hastert, want to broaden the supplemental budget request to cover aid to the ailing airline industry. The Democratic leadership wants more money for homeland security.

Bush, however, warned Congress to keep unrelated items out of the measure, insisting it cannot be "business as usual" on Capitol Hill.

Later, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer appeared to leave the door open to the specific question of aid for the airlines.

"We will work with the Congress to see what their ideas are and explore them," he told reporters.

Bush is scheduled to travel to Central Command headquarters in Tampa, Florida, on Wednesday to meet with military personnel involved in managing the Iraqi war effort.

The appearances are part of an effort by the White House to elevate the president's public profile to offer encouragement and thanks to U.S. troops, and to remind Americans that the war in Iraq might turn out to be longer and more perilous than some have expected.

-- CNN Senior White House Correspondent John King and Congressional Correspondent Jonathan Karl contributed to this report.

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