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Bush Threatens Veto of Costly Bill to Fund Wars

April 26, 2006|From the Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The White House promised Tuesday to veto a huge Senate bill that would pay the rising costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and repair Hurricane Katrina damage unless the cost to taxpayers was scaled back to President Bush's original requests.

The must-pass $106.5-billion bill exceeds Bush's February request by more than $14 billion with add-ons for farm aid, highway repairs and aid to the Gulf Coast fishing industry, among others.

"The administration is seriously concerned with the overall funding level and the numerous unrequested items included in the Senate bill that are unrelated to the war or emergency hurricane relief needs," a White House statement said.

The bill is sure to be pared back in House-Senate negotiations next month, and Bush may not have to use a veto.

The White House statement said that farm aid in the bill was unnecessary after a booming 2005 crop year and that a $700-million relocation of a Mississippi freight rail line would unfairly put taxpayers on the hook for privately owned infrastructure.

But Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) vowed to block attempts to strip the project from the bill, saying it was essential to draw residents and business back to Mississippi's devastated coast.

Even as the White House raised the potential of a first-ever Bush veto over the bill's cost, the administration asked the Senate on Tuesday for $2.2 billion more to repair and strengthen levees in and around New Orleans. The request wouldn't add to the overall cost of the bill because it was accompanied by a decrease in funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

But the White House acknowledged that FEMA coffers would have to be replenished in the fall instead of next year under the new proposal.

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