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Real deadline for Iraq war money is May

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070331/ap_on_go_co/iraq_funding_deadline;_ylt=Agmx_deYMFClgEhwZFVmHjTMWM0F Real deadline for Iraq war money is May By ANDREW
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 31, 2007
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      http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070331/ap_on_go_co/iraq_funding_deadline;_ylt=Agmx_deYMFClgEhwZFVmHjTMWM0F

      Real deadline for Iraq war money is May

      By ANDREW TAYLOR, Associated Press Writer 6 minutes
      ago

      WASHINGTON - The real deadline for Congress to provide
      more money for the war in Iraq is several weeks beyond
      the April 15 deadline cited by President Bush and
      Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

      The Pentagon can take several penny-pinching steps
      without harming troop readiness or other dire
      consequences predicted by the Bush administration
      until Congress actually comes up with the money.

      Mid-April is about when $70 billion provided by
      Congress for the war will run out. After that,
      Pentagon accountants will move money around in the
      department's more than half-trillion dollar budget to
      make sure operations in Iraq and Afghanistan are not
      disrupted.

      The Army, Gates testified this past week, "will be
      forced to consider" altering training schedules for
      reserves and units to be deployed to Iraq and
      Afghanistan, as well as delays in repairing equipment
      and renovating barracks.

      The steps under consideration include borrowing from
      training, maintenance, personnel and procurement funds
      set to be spent later in the budget year, which runs
      through September. They have become routine in recent
      years.

      The money is repaid, usually with minimal disruption,
      when the president signs the war spending bill. But
      you might not realize that, given the recent rhetoric
      from the White House.

      "If Congress does not approve the emergency funding
      for our troops by April the 15th, our men and women in
      uniform will face significant disruptions, and so will
      their families," Bush said March 23.

      White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said Friday,
      "Every day that the Congress fails to act on this
      request causes our military hardship and impacts
      readiness."

      Such criticism was scarce when the GOP-controlled
      Congress was tardy in providing war dollars last year.
      At the time, there was a warning about "serious
      impacts" if the money was delayed further, but it came
      in a little-noticed letter from the White House budget
      office. Congress ignored the warning and went on
      vacation.

      Last May and June, when $66 billion in Iraq and
      Afghanistan money was late, the Army faced a "near
      disastrous 'cash flow' experience," Gen. Peter
      Schoomaker, the Army's chief of staff, told Congress
      in February.

      But there was no effect on troop readiness and
      training missions, nor delays in rotating troops out
      of Iraq. Instead, the Army froze civilian hiring,
      fired some temporary employees, stopped nonemergency
      travel and delayed purchases of information
      technology, Schoomaker said.

      That is why many lawmakers view Bush's April 15
      deadline more as a target date. The private signal
      many are getting from the Pentagon is that mid-May is
      when the money will be needed to avoid disrupting
      activities such as training missions.

      "The president is once again attempting to mislead the
      public and create an artificial atmosphere of
      anxiety," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid
      (news, bio, voting record), D-Nev.

      The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service said in
      a report the Pentagon has only begun to start
      "reprogramming" money between various accounts to make
      sure overseas operations are not disrupted.

      The Army, which has the biggest duty in Iraq, can last
      into the summer by using this transfer authority. That
      is especially true when shifting money set to be spent
      in the current budget year's fourth quarter, from July
      through September.

      "They can move china around pretty much until we get
      to the fourth quarter," said Gordon Adams, a former
      Clinton administration budget official who specializes
      in defense issues. "So into June, while it's painful,
      it's possible."

      Democratic Rep. John Murtha (news, bio, voting record)
      of Pennsylvania, who heads a subcommittee that
      oversees defense spending, said the real deadline
      facing lawmakers is about June 1. That is in line with
      last year's experience, when a $94.4 billion bill
      providing war money did not pass Congress until early
      June.

      Nonetheless, Democrats are a little nervous about
      leaving Washington on their long-scheduled Easter
      vacation without first delivering the $120
      billion-plus Iraq spending bill.

      Negotiators have not even meet to reconcile
      differences between House and Senate versions of the
      spending bill. Bush has pledged to veto the measure
      because it has timelines for a U.S. exit from Iraq and
      nonwar spending added by lawmakers.

      Reid told colleagues on Thursday that aides from both
      parties and both the House and Senate will be working
      on a compromise during the congressional break.

      The House, however, does not return until April 16.
      Even if a tentative deal is reached by then, getting
      it through the House and Senate and to Bush would take
      a week at a minimum. If Bush follows through on his
      veto, a new bill would have to be written and put to
      votes.

      With that ticking clock in mind, the White House is
      taking a harder line with Congress now that Democrats
      are in control.

      "Day 53 And Counting Since The President Submitted
      Emergency Supplemental Funding Request," read the
      subtitle of a White House news release Friday.

      Added White House spokeswoman Perino: "The president
      was surprised to learn that Congress went on vacation today."
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