Dems worry Bush may expand war without asking

Wednesday, February 6, 2002

WASHINGTON -- Democrats on Tuesday questioned whether President Bush's defense budget would give him too much room to expand the war on terrorism without consulting Congress.

At one point, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard Myers acknowledged it is "absolutely possible" American troops will come in harm's way in the Philippines, where the anti-terror effort is already widening.

In a hearing on Bush's 2003 budget plan, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin asked about the Pentagon's plans for a proposed $10 billion reserve fund for unspecified future war needs.

"Could those funds be used for any activity that the president or you decided to use them for ... without further authorization or action from Congress?" Levin, D-Mich., asked Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld. He noted Congress generally doesn't appropriate money in advance for unidentified military operations.

Levin specifically asked about Iraq, Iran and North Korea. Bush called those countries members of an "axis of evil," singling them out for what analysts said was a surprising and harsh warning in his State of the Union address last week.

Rumsfeld noted that the United States is spending $1.8 billion a month for the war on terrorism abroad and heightened security at home since Sept. 11.

"My understanding is that the funds would be used for the war on terrorism that the president has announced," Rumsfeld said. "He's indicated that al-Qaida is in some 60 countries -- the task has to be to root out those terrorists."

The $10 billion reserve is a relatively small amount that couldn't include "anything the size you're talking about," he told Levin.

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