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Bush asks for $25 billion more for Iraq, Afghanistan

The White House had hoped to avoid asking for more money for Iraq until after the November election.
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Capitol Hill

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Calling it a "high priority," President Bush on Wednesday asked Congress for an additional $25 billion to cover military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"While we do not know the precise costs for operations next year, recent developments on the ground and increased demands on our troops indicate the need to plan for contingencies," Bush said in a written statement released by the White House. "We must make sure there is no disruption in funding and resources for our troops.

Bush Budget Director Josh Bolten and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz went to Capitol Hill for an afternoon meeting with senior GOP leaders. They included House Speaker Dennis Hastert of Illinois; Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee, and Sens. Ted Stevens of Alaska and John Warner of Virginia -- the chairmen of the Appropriations and Armed Services committees, congressional and administration sources said.

"$25 billion will not be enough," said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Bill Young, R-Florida, after the meeting.

Young said the money is needed because additional troops are being deployed, many of whom are Reserve or National Guard troops who will start getting full-time pay. He said he expects the White House to ask for more money early next year but said he didn't know how much.

Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, the House majority leader, said he expects Congress to easily approve the funds.

"This is not money for Iraq," he said. "This is money for our troops. No one is going to have a problem with that."

One administration official described the White House request as a "modest adjustment" to the Pentagon budget and added that "there is still work to be done on the long-term assessment of what will be needed into next year."

In his statement, Bush described the $25 billion as a "contingency reserve fund" that would be used to "meet all commitments to our troops."

"I have pledged to our troops that they will have all the resources they need to get the job done, and I look forward to working with Congress on this high priority," Bush said.

Bush said he would pursue a full supplemental request for the 2005 fiscal year "when we can better estimate precise costs."

Rep. David Obey of Wisconsin., the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, said the administration's approach "represents yet another effort to conceal the full costs of meeting the challenges in Iraq until after the election."

The administration had previously indicated it hoped to wait until after the November election to request any additional money for Iraq and Afghanistan, but in recent weeks officials have conceded costs have been higher than expected.

In part, the rise is to due to higher troop levels in Iraq and the costs of increased military activity in response to the insurgency there.

Democrats have accused the administration of not committing to firm numbers about military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan because, they say, the cost could bother some voters.

CNN's Dana Bash, Ted Barrett, John King and Steve Turnham contributed to this report.

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