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$603M for Iraq cops but $200M for ours

Showdown looms over Bush proposal

WASHINGTON - At the same time the Bush administration has been pushing for deep cuts in a popular crime-fighting program for states and cities, the White House has been fighting for approval of $603 million for the Iraqi police.

The White House earlier this year proposed slashing the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant program, which helps local law-enforcement officials deal with violent crime and serious offenders, to $200 million in the next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.

In 2002, the year before the Iraq war, the program received $900 million.

The administration and the Democratic-controlled Congress are headed for a showdown over the domestic money, probably next month. When the Senate last week passed the emergency-funding bill for the Iraq war, it allotted an immediate $490 million for the domestic grants while keeping the Iraqi police funds intact.

The House is expected to consider the package when it returns from its Memorial Day recess next week. But the domestic grants are the kind of spending that's causing Bush to threaten a veto.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino did not single out the Byrne grants but made it clear the president is not happy with items that don't deal with the war on terror.

She talked about how Congress wants "to ladle on lots of special projects. The president thinks that some of those projects may be meritorious. But they should have that debate outside of funding for the troops."

Those angry with the administration have a powerful ally in Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., who chairs the House appropriations subcommittee that oversees the Justice Department.

"While President Bush requests millions of dollars for the war in Iraq, his domestic spending continues to shortchange our safety at home," she said.

"We have funded the surge of Baghdad, but we have not funded the surge of violent crime in Baltimore, Biloxi or other places," the senator said. *