Congress, all but sitting on the sidelines since approving the war against Iraq, returned today to deal with the cost of Operation Desert Storm, as well as other battle-related legislation. The Senate and House are both scheduled to resume work after a 10-day recess and, shortly after their return, the administration will tender a $56 billion bill to pay for the war.

Although a staggering sum, about $41 billion of the $56 billion supplemental appropriations, will be shouldered by other members of the allied coalition that have contributed not only men and materiel, but hard cash for the war effort.

The size of the appropriation has been the subject of great speculation on Capitol Hill, with the administration offering Congress little information on what is needed to fight the war.

A senior administration official said late last week the total figure is $56 billion and that the allies will contribute $41 billion of that total, but he gave no additional details.

It was also unclear whether the White House would send Congress a second appropriations bill to help alliance countries that have suffered, either economically like Turkey, or physically like Israel.

White House press secretary Marlin Fitzwater said recently, ``Basically there would be one [supplemental] that would relate just to the incremental costs associated with Operation Desert Storm. And then, if there were costs in other areas, that would be a separate issue to be resolved later with another supplemental or something.

``We hope to have a full accounting of the 1991 costs and requests ... hopefully ... before that supplemental goes up [to Capitol Hill].''

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