Center for American Progress

Bush’s Legal Obligation to Tell Congress About $700M for Iraq

Bush’s Legal Obligation to Tell Congress About $700M for Iraq




Since Bob Woodward disclosed that President Bush in July of 2002 diverted $700 million into Iraq invasion planning without informing Congress, the Bush Administration has failed to provide one shred of evidence to rebuff the charge. According to Woodward, Bush kept Congress "totally in the dark on this" leaving lawmakers with "no real knowledge or involvement." Not only does the Constitution vest the power of the purse with Congress, but whichever of the two supplemental bills passed between 9/11 and July 2001 the President drew the money from had explicit language obligating him to inform key congressional leaders.Unfortunately, instead of opening an investigation, White House allies on Capitol Hill actually told USA Today that the move was acceptable because "the $700 million was small compared" with the overall spending bills.

BUSH REQUIRED TO TELL CONGRESS, EVEN IF HE USED THE 9/11 SUPPLEMENTAL: While the President was given discretion to direct $10 billion of the post-9/11 Emergency Supplemental bill, the legislation specifically obligated the President to "consult with the chairmen and ranking minority members of the Committees on Appropriations prior to the transfer" of any funds. In other words, the President was obligated to tell key congressional leaders of both parties anytime he moved money. [Source: Text of HR 2888, Post-9/11 Emergency Appropriations, 9/14/01]

BUSH DELIBERATELY USED VAGUE LANGUAGE IN DOCUMENTS TO HIDE SECRET MOVE: The White House issued two legally mandated updates to Congress about where supplemental funds were being spent. Both covered portions of the time Bush made his $700 million order. But in these documents, instead of telling Congress money was going to Iraq, the White House deliberately used vague and evasive language. For instance, in both of its updates to the Appropriations Committee, the Administration only said it had used monies for "increased situational awareness" and "increased worldwide posture" – and did not mention Iraq at all. [Source: OMB Notification, 8/9/02 & 10/17/02]

SENATE APPROPRIATIONS CHAIRMAN SAYS WHITE HOUSE NEVER NOTIFIED HIS COMMITTEE: Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV), then-Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee which should have received notification, issued a statement on 4/20/04 saying "the Bush White House provided no consultations as required by law about its use of funds for preparation for a war in Iraq in advance of those funds being spent." [Source: Byrd Statement, 4/20/04]

BUSH SAID 9/11 BILL FOR NEW YORK AND CURRENT MILITARY OPERATIONS – NOT IRAQ: In his speech to Congress after 9/11, President Bush promised to use the Emergency Supplemental Bill specifically for aid to New York and for military operations against the terrorists who struck America. He said he would use the "$40 billion to rebuild our communities and meet the needs of our military." He said nothing about Iraq. [Source: President Bush, 9/19/01]

BILL REQUIRED BUSH TO TELL CONGRESS BEFORE MOVING FUNDS: According to the text of the August 2002 Supplemental, the Bush Administration was only permitted to transfer "up to $275 million" of previously appropriated funds within the Pentagon, and only "15 days after notification to the congressional defense committees." In other words, the White House was obligated to tell Congress if money was moved. [Source: Supplemental Bill, 8/2/02]

BILL REQUIRED BUSH TO TELL CONGRESS IF FUNDS GIVEN TO FRONTLINE STATES: According to the text of the August 2002 Supplemental, the President was allowed to use $390 million for aid to countries assisting with the Global War on Terror. However, that money could only be spent only after "15 days following notification to the appropriate Congressional committees." [Source: Supplemental Bill, HR 4775, 8/2/02]

UNABLE TO PRODUCE ANY EVIDENCE THEY EVEN MENTIONED IRAQ TO CONGRESS: The Administration has yet to produce one reprogramming or transfer notice to Congress about the supplemental which mentioned Iraq. White House spokesman Scott McClellan "added that the White House had asked the Pentagon comptroller and OMB to document what had happened" but there has still been no evidence. [Source: LA Times, 4/20/04]

THE SUMMER SUPPLEMENTAL WAS SIGNED AFTER SECRET ORDER WAS MADE: According to Woodward, the order for the $700 million was given in July of 2002. The White House would have trouble arguing it took the secret $700 million out of the summer 2002 supplemental, considering the bill wasn’t signed into law until August 2. [Source: Congressional Record, 8/02]




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