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Craig Crawford Headshot

War Spending Shortcut Takes Hold

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Our wars cost more and without any change in how they're funded under a President many thought to be against both in his election campaign.

It's one thing that President Obama is spending nearly $2 billion per month more for Iraq and Afghanistan than his predecessor, but what happened to his vow to stop funding these wars with "emergency" supplemental measures that avoid strict budget scrutiny?

This week the Senate will probably approve another $33.5 billion for wars, even though it is tacked on to a supplemental spending bill that was originally intended for disaster relief and summer jobs.

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This is the sort of Bush-era budget trick that Obama had said he would stop. A year ago, when his administration used the supplemental process for war funding, press secretary Robert Gibbs said that it was too early in their tenure to make a change but that it would be their last such request. "The honest budgeting and appropriations process that the president has talked about falls somewhat victim to the fact that this is the way that wars have been funded previously," Gibbs said in April, 2009.

Despite Gibbs' promise, a year later nothing has changed.

The trouble with supplemental budgeting is two-fold: It avoids tough rules on how to pay for increases, and it offers a streamlined way to boost spending for projects already funded by more carefully-considered appropriations bills. That's why supplementals are supposed to be only for real emergencies, like hurricane relief.

With this second Obama-era supplemental, funding wars with budget shortcuts officially becomes firmly entrenched as the norm, not the exception.

Also on Craig's blog: If President Obama means what he says why oppose putting an Afghan withdrawal into law?