Skip to comments.UPDATE 1-Lawmakers see chance for U.S. loans to Iraq
Posted on 10/02/2003 2:13:59 PM PDT by fight_truth_decay
WASHINGTON, Oct 2 (Reuters) - Lawmakers who want Iraq to repay the United States for its reconstruction voiced growing confidence on Thursday that the U.S. Congress will make part of the $87 billion bill for Iraq in the form of loans, defying President George W. Bush.
Republican leaders in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives worked to stem a push among their own members to make Iraq use its future oil wealth to repay some or all of the $20.3 billion Bush has proposed to rebuild it.
But a spokesman for House Speaker Dennis Hastert, an Illinois Republican, said Hastert would accept a loan provision if that is what it takes to send the bill to Bush.
"He wants to support the administration, but he wants to make sure it passes," said John Feehery, Hastert's spokesman.
The Senate, debating the bill for military operations and reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan, rejected 57-42 an amendment to cover the $87 billion by scaling back tax cuts to people in the highest income bracket.
Sen. Joseph Biden, the Delaware Democrat who pushed the measure, said as "loyal, patriotic Americans" wealthy taxpayers would be willing to forgo a part of the tax cut to pay for Iraq operations and prevent deepening deficits.
But Republicans said the plan largely would affect small business owners and stifle job growth.
The Senate is to vote on the bill the week starting Oct. 13, after a recess next week. The House is to take up its version the week of Oct. 13.
A number of Republicans have joined Democrats in questioning why the United States should pay for rebuilding Iraq, as well as specifics of the plan they said are unreasonably expensive.
About a dozen Republican senators were gathering around a plan to make $10 billion of the reconstruction money in loans to be administered by the World Bank.
There were other Republican and Democratic plans in the works, but lawmakers said it was complex since Iraq does not have a government in place to sign for the loans.
Sen. Joseph Biden, an Idaho Republican backing a loan plan, said White House officials were sitting in on meetings. "They're listening. I think they're holding firmly to their position." But he said he expected "some reshaping of that portion of the total package."
The White House has argued against loans, saying Iraq has $200 billion in debt and that it would fuel ideas the United States wants to control its oil.
Assistant Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky called the Iraq bill "the defining issue of this Congress," and urged support of Bush's plan.
In the House, the push for loans has come largely from Republicans, but Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California said Democrats have shown "great interest" in the idea.
Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana said he and other Republican backers of a loan just want to get a vote on the issue, and they will support the final bill.
"I tend to believe if there was an up or down vote, it would come out of the House with loans," he said.
"Politically it's a great idea, but I'm not sure how you can make it work," said Rep. John Spratt, a South Carolina Democrat.
Agence France-Presse reported that Adnan Pachachi, a senior member of the Governing Council, said yesterday that switching from grants to loans would have "very adverse effects, both in Iraq and in the region". Ahmad Chalabi, another leading member, added that grant aid would "emphasise completely the sincerity of the US that they came to liberate the Iraqi people".