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Bush: $87 billion 'worth it' for security

From Dana Bash
CNN Washington Bureau

Bush called a tax increase to pay for his budget request
Bush called a tax increase to pay for his budget request "an absurd notion."

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush said Wednesday spending $87 billion to fund operations in Iraq and Afghanistan in the next fiscal year is "worth it" for national security and he rejected any call to raise taxes to pay for it.

"The $87 billion, it's important to spend that money. It's in our national interest that we spend it," Bush said following a White House meeting with Kuwait's prime minister.

"A free and peaceful Iraq will save this country money in the long term. It's important to get it done now."

The White House conceded Monday the funding request for the upcoming fiscal year budget would swell the record $475 billion deficit to at least $525 billion. (Full story)

Many members of Congress, mostly Democrats, have voiced concern in recent days the larger than anticipated price tag for Iraqi operations will hurt key domestic programs. (Full story)

Some have suggested repealing at least some of the nearly $2 trillion in tax cuts enacted since Bush took office.

"I heard somebody say, well, what we need to do is have a tax increase to pay for this. That's an absurd notion," Bush told reporters.

"You don't raise taxes when an economy is recovering. Matter of fact, lower taxes will help enhance economic recovery.

"We want our people going back to work. We've got good momentum now in our economy; we don't want to destroy that momentum. But the $87 billion is worth it and I look forward to working with Congress to get that number completed and get the job done. "

Bush's spokesman was asked later about a potential Democratic proposal to repeal the tax cuts for just the top 1 percent of Americans.

"Sounds like a tax increase to me," said White House press secretary Scott McClellan.

"There are a lot of small-business owners in that top bracket. These are the job creators, the economic backbone of our economy," McClellan said.

"And so that would be a job killer move, just as our economy is moving in the right direction."

Members of Congress in both parties say they are shocked by the large price tag for Iraq because administration officials said before the war that Iraqi assets like oil revenues would pay for the bulk of the operation.

McClellan said the White House underestimated Iraq's state of disrepair. "The infrastructure was worse than we've anticipated going in," he said.

"It was not an open society, so there were things we did not know about the infrastructure that we have now since learned since we have liberated the Iraqi people."

Senate Democrats are considering a bill to block the $20 billion requested for Iraqi reconstruction until the White House submits a detailed plan, or timetable, for garnering international support and winding down the U.S. occupation. (Interactive: Costs of war)

McClellan suggested Bush has already described that plan in his renewed bid to get international support in Iraq with a new United Nations resolution.

He also said Paul Bremer, Coalition Provisional Authority administrator, has laid out a seven-point plan for the creating an Iraqi government in charge of its own security and economy.

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