Monday, February 4, 2008

Rising Cost of Iraq War Could Spur Opposition

WASHINGTON -- The cost of U.S. military operations in Iraq is rising rapidly, and could reignite the national debate about the war, which has taken a back seat to the economy as an issue for most voters this election year.

Today, the White House will propose a federal budget that for the first time tops $3 trillion. The plan is expected to include a record sum for the Pentagon and an additional $70 billion in funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, while essentially freezing discretionary spending in areas other than national security, including most domestic programs.

The sharp contrast between President Bush's defense and domestic-spending goals could give Democrats a potent political weapon as the economy continues to deteriorate. But with the Democratic-controlled Congress likely to scrap most of Mr. Bush's spending plans, his funding proposal for Iraq may be one of the budget's most enduring elements.

Mr. Bush's budget calls for about $515 billion to be allocated to the Defense Department for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1, according to people familiar with the matter. If passed by Congress, that would be the largest military budget -- adjusted for inflation -- since World War II.

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