Thursday, May 18, 2006

Mad money

George W. Bush today sends a supplemental budget request to his previous supplemental budget request:

As part of my first objective to secure our Nation's borders, I ask the Congress to consider the enclosed requests for an additional $1.9 billion for the Departments of Defense, Justice, and Homeland Security, which is in addition to supplemental funding requested on February 16th for the Global War on Terror and the consequences of Hurricane Katrina. This additional amount is offset by a $1.9 billion reduction in the amount requested on February 16th for the Department of Defense.

So to head off the critique that he's a borrow-and-spender, he claims that he doesn't actually need $1.9 bn from this request:

[Feb 16th supplemental] I hereby designate the specific proposals in the amounts requested herein as emergency requirements. This request reflects urgent and essential requirements. I ask the Congress to appropriate the funds as requested and promptly send the bill to me for signature.

If $1.9 bn of previously urgent and essential requests can be chopped at 2 days notice, how much other fat is in there?

UPDATE: Seemingly aware of the conundrum, a White House "Fact Sheet" explains:

The funds [the new $1.9 bn] are fully offset by reductions elsewhere in the Administration's original February supplemental request by delaying certain less-urgent military procurement efforts to future appropriations legislation. There will be no proposed reductions that would impact personnel or operational activities necessary to the War on Terror. Many of these offsets are similar to ones already identified by Congress.

In other words, the $1.9 bn is offset within this specific supplemental, but not from planned total government spending.

And the mystery of the suddenly flexible $1.9 bn came up at both the briefing for the supplemental to the supplemental and Friday morning's press corps chat with Tony Snow (link via Holden).

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