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Bush request scribbled in red ink

From John King
CNN Washington Bureau


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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The White House acknowledged Monday that President Bush's budget request for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will balloon the federal budget deficit next year by at least $50 billion -- to a record $525 billion or more.

The administration reiterated its view that the deficit could be cut in half in the next few years, but the red ink is certain to be among the pressure points as the administration makes the case for the $87 billion spending request.

Senior administration officials told reporters there were no plans at the White House to seek "offsets" -- or spending cuts elsewhere in the budget -- to ease the strain of the new war budget request on the Treasury.

Nor is the White House open to scaling back tax cuts already passed by Congress, these officials said.

The administration had already projected a record federal budget deficit next year of $475 billion.

The senior officials said the new war request would add $50 billion or maybe $60 billion more in red ink in the fiscal year that begins October 1.

On another note, the officials said their projections for revenues from Iraqi oil sales now stand at:

• $12 billion for fiscal 2004, which begins in October.

• $20 billion for fiscal 2005 and fiscal 2006.

The administration initially had predicted that Iraqi oil sales would pay for the bulk of the reconstruction and political transition after the war.

Now the administration says it wants $20 billion from Congress and tens of billions more from other nations to help pay reconstruction costs.


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