Bush Requests $70 Billion More For Iraq

President Bush said earlier this week that $108 billion is $108 billion, and he would allow no more than that on the latest Iraq funding bill.

Well, there seems to be some flexibility in that demand. Bush today requested $70 billion in funding that would pay for Iraq operations into the next presidency, dovetailing with a Democratic request to put this so-called bridge fund into the overall Iraq budget and fund the war for several months into the next presidency.

The $70 billion is for fiscal 2009, and the pending $108 billion is for fiscal 2008. If Democrats decide to start adding domestic funding items -- over the objections of the White House -- this supplemental spending bill could easily top $200 billion.

And even though Republicans have been demanding a "clean" funding bill focused on Iraq, Bush's request released Friday also includes $770 million in international food aid, $193 million for Pakistan and funding for other initiatives in Africa, as well as money for the six-party North Korea talks.

Congressional Democrats are still undecided about how to handle the supplemental spending bill in both chambers. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is considering bypassing the committee process and also would like a separate vote on a troop withdrawal amendment. In the Senate, Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) has said he will hold a markup on the Iraq bill, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has said that is not a certainty.

At this rate, the bill may not be ready until after the Memorial Day recess.