Democrats want details on Bush’s Iraq plan

US CONGRESSIONAL Democrats’ support for President Bush’s $87 billion request comes with a price: they want him to spell out details of his overall Iraq strategy.

For months, many Democrats and some Republicans have complained that the Bush administration has offered few details about how it will rebuild Iraq, how much international support can be expected, how much American taxpayers will have to pay over the years and how long US troops will be based there.

Democrat Senator Ted Kennedy said he will offer an amendment to the Iraq spending bill that would bar money for relief and reconstruction until Bush officially reports to Congress on his Iraq strategy.

“The president owes our troops and their families a plan before we give the administration a blank cheque,” Kennedy said in a written statement.

Republican Senator Chuck Hagel said yesterday the Bush administration “did a miserable job of planning the post-Saddam Iraq” and “they treated many in the Congress, most of the Congress like a nuisance”.

Answers “will be demanded”, Hagel said yesterday on CBS. Kennedy, also appearing on CBS’s The Early Show, said the best approach is to involve the United Nations and get additional troops from Muslim nations to offset the burden of American troops.

Senators were likely to seek answers about the administration’s Iraq plans yesterday as deputy defence secretary Paul Wolfowitz and General Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, appear before the Armed Services Committee.

In a televised address on Sunday, Bush said he would ask Congress for $87 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan, in addition to the $79 billion that Congress approved in April. Bush said the money is needed to stop terrorists before they can strike again in the United States.

Republicans, who control the House and Senate, praised Bush’s speech and offered support for the plan. Senate majority leader Bill Frist said the proposal “warrants the support of Congress.” And House Appropriations Committee chairman Bill Young, whose panel will help write Congress’ version, said he would “aggressively expedite the president’s request”.

Democrats will be hard-pressed to deny Bush the money he says is needed for US soldiers. “We obviously want to support our troops. That, I think, is a given,” said Senator Carl Levin, the top Democrat on the Armed Services Committee.

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