- The Washington Times - Friday, February 16, 2007

House Democratic leaders yesterday revealed their plan to restrict President Bush’s use of war funding, though some Democrats said the proposal, released on the eve of a symbolic vote against the war in Iraq, does not do enough to stop the war.

“This legislation will force the administration to consider alternatives rather than escalating,” said Rep. John P. Murtha, Pennsylvania Democrat, describing limitations he intends to place on an appropriations bill next month.

Mr. Murtha’s bill would bar the U.S. military from extending combat assignments beyond one year or giving troops a combat assignment less than a year since the last one. It also would end the military’s “stop-loss” program that involuntarily extends troops’ enlistment periods, would close permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq, and would require that the Pentagon certify that troops being sent to Iraq are “fully combat ready” with training and equipment.

“They won’t be able to continue. They won’t be able to do the deployment. They won’t have the equipment, they don’t have the training, and they won’t be able to do the work. There’s no question in my mind,” Mr. Murtha said.

Meanwhile, the House concluded its third day of debate over a nonbinding resolution that would oppose the president’s plan to send an additional 21,500 troops to Iraq. A vote is expected today.

At the other end of the Capitol, the Senate will work into the weekend tomorrow, after Majority Leader Harry Reid scheduled a vote to begin debate on a resolution identical to the House measure. Republicans oppose Mr. Reid’s attempt because the Nevada Democrat refuses to allow them any amendments to the resolution.

Mr. Murtha, chairman of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, plans to attach his plan to hamstring the U.S. military to the president’s defense-spending request when it comes before his panel next month. Mr. Murtha’s plan is supported by House Democratic leaders, and is the less politically risky alternative to cutting off war funds altogether.

But some Democrats are not satisfied with this approach. Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich, Ohio Democrat, said his party’s leadership is supporting a “continuation” of the war in Iraq.

“The American people want us to get out of Iraq,” Mr. Kucinich said. “They expect Democrats to move quickly to end our involvement in Iraq. If Congress approves the supplemental appropriation, President Bush will have the money he needs to keep the war going through the end of his term.”

Mr. Kucinich is part of the Out of Iraq Caucus, founded by Rep. Maxine Waters, California Democrat. There are more than 70 members of Congress in this caucus. About 20 anti-war activists from Maryland yesterday “occupied” the office of Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, Maryland Democrat, for nearly two hours because she has voted to fund the war, even though she voted against authorizing the war in 2002.

But Mr. Bush warned against Mr. Murtha’s plan, saying Congress needs to approve both “resources” and “flexibility” for the U.S. military “to do their job.”

“Our men and women in uniform are counting on their elected leaders to provide them with the support they need to accomplish their mission,” Mr. Bush said.

House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, labeled Mr. Murtha’s plan “a plan to cut off funding for troops in harm’s way” and “unthinkable.”

Mr. Boehner’s staff sent out an e-mail saying the Murtha plan would “pull the rug out” from U.S. troops by “cutting off their reinforcements and forcing them to face the enemy without our full support.”

Mr. Murtha repeatedly emphasized yesterday that his strategy “supports the troops” by requiring adequate training and equipment and protecting them from exhaustion.

“What we’re saying, it would be very hard to find fault with. The troops have to be equipped, they have to be trained, they can’t be sent back without a year at home,” Mr. Murtha said. “People have to understand we’re supporting the troops, we’re protecting the troops, but on the other hand, we’re going to stop this surge.”

He also is considering language that would require the president to seek congressional approval before the U.S. could invade Iran. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, yesterday also said the president does not have authority to invade Iran without explicit congressional approval.

In the Senate, Republicans protested Mr. Reid’s attempt to deny their amendments to the nonbinding resolution, one of which would vow not to cut off funding for the military. In a similar situation earlier this month, Senate Republicans blocked a vote on any resolution.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said Democrats were going to “block a vote in the Senate to fund our troops in Iraq.”

But Democrats said Republicans were trying to avoid a simple vote on approving the president’s plan.

“They just want to avoid a vote, up or down, on the surge. … But we’re voting on it first, and we’re voting on it clean,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat.

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