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Bush to View Budget Law in Light of Presidential Authority

Donna Miles - American Forces Press Service

President Bush said yesterday he will construe restrictions imposed in the fiscal 2009 defense budget “in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority and obligations of the president.”

Bush signed the Duncan Hunter National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009 into law yesterday. It authorizes a $512 billion base to support military readiness, as well as $66 billion for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The law also authorizes a 3.9 percent pay raise for servicemembers, to take effect Jan. 1, and other quality-of-life improvements including family housing and tuition assistance programs.

But the act also includes provisions that “purport to impose requirements that could inhibit the president’s ability to carry out his constitutional obligations to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, to protect national security, to conduct diplomatic negotiations, to supervise the executive branch, to appoint officers of the United States, and to execute his authority as commander in chief,” Bush said in a written statement.

These provisions, spelled out in sections 851, 1211(2) and 1508(b) of the law, require that the administration notify Congress of any agreement reached with Iraq regarding future U.S. forces there. The law requires that Congress be permitted to review the arrangement, but does not require its approval. The law also prohibits use of Defense Department funding for any large-scale infrastructure projects in Iraq, with some exceptions.

The new funding law also calls on the administration to press Iraq to pay costs associated with its own security forces, and to negotiate with the Iraqis to reach a cost-sharing agreement to cover U.S.-Iraqi operations.

The Pentagon has long stated that it has no interest in building permanent military bases in Iraq, Bryan Whitman, assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, said today.

“We are interested, though, in a long-term relationship with a peaceful government of Iraq, and we think there are probably long-term aspects to the relationship which can help influence the stability and security, not only of Iraq, but the region,” he said.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates also has committed to consulting with Congress as the United States gets closer to reaching a strategic framework and status of forces agreement arrangement with Iraq, Whitman said. “The secretary has made it very clear to the Hill that he is committed to consulting with them on these important issues,” he said.

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