But as the Democrats continue to make their push for a significantly reduced presence in Iraq–something they acknowledge is unlikely in the last months of the Bush administration–they are increasingly framing their argument for a troop withdrawal in economic terms.
In two days of hearings with the commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, and the senior U.S. diplomat in Baghdad, Ryan Crocker, Democrats and a smattering of Republicans fired criticism at the White House over a war that has cost $600 billion and could cost hundreds of billions more if a significant U.S. presence is kept there over the next decade, according to projections by the Congressional Budget Office.
“The cost of our deployment is not the determining factor in deciding how we size our forces or how long we stay engaged there,” said Rep. John Spratt Jr. (D-S.C.). “But when the cost is $600 billion and rising and there’s no exit sign in sight, it has to be a consideration.”
Obama engaged in an all-out lobbying push for the bill, which is among the most expensive pieces of legislation ever to move through Congress, and marked a big victory for his presidency a little more than a week into his term. He will now turn his attention to the Senate, where Democrats are scheduled to begin debate on the measure on Monday and the price tag is likely to reach $900 billion.
Larger than the combined total cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan so far, the two-year stimulus plan would provide up to $1,000 per year in tax relief for most families, dramatically increase funding for alternative energy production, and direct more than $300 billion in aid to states to help rebuild schools, provide health care to the poor and reconstruct highways and bridges.
The argument is, “Your priorities are expensive and increase the deficit; my priorities are reasonable investments.”