( Reuters ) - The Bush administration will ask the Congress next week for $70 billion to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and related operations for part of the 2009 fiscal year, the Pentagon said on Monday.
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said the administration probably will not submit another war funding request before it leaves office next January. That would make key decisions on funding the wars one of the first tasks of the next president.
Since the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, Congress has approved $691 billion to pay for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and such related activities as Iraq reconstruction, the Congressional Budget Office said last week.
Of the total, the CBO estimated that $440 billion had been spent on the war in Iraq.
The new request is likely to set up another battle with Democrats who control Congress and have been highly critical of President George W. Bush's handling of the Iraq war. Congress has yet to approve most of Bush's fiscal 2008 war funding request.
The new request will come on top of the administration's request for the regular Pentagon budget for fiscal 2009, which starts on October 1, 2008.
But the two will be sent to Congress together next Monday as part of Bush's overall budget request.
"We will ask for $70 billion in an emergency allowance to support global war on terror in 2009," Whitman said.
The administration has not yet disclosed the planned size of the 2009 regular Pentagon budget. For the current fiscal year, Bush requested $481.4 billion for the Pentagon and Congress provided about $460 billion.
In past years, members of Congress have pressed the administration to submit full war funding requests together with the regular Pentagon budget so that both can be subjected to the same level of scrutiny at the same time.
The Pentagon said this would not be possible for 2009, partly because Congress has yet to approve most of the war funding requested for 2008.
"We cannot present another one until we know what we're going to get from last year's request," said Lt. Col. Brian Maka, another Pentagon spokesman.
The administration has requested a total of nearly $190 billion in war funding for the 2008 fiscal year, but Congress has not approved that amount.
In December, it approved a $70 billion "bridge fund" in partial war funding for the current fiscal year. Democrats say those funds should be sufficient to last until around May or June.