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Murtha proposes bill to choke funding for surge

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Rep. John P. Murtha, Pennsylvania Democrat, yesterday announced plans to introduce legislation that would cut off funding for President Bush's proposed surge of American troops into Baghdad.

"I think our hearings will show that even Republicans will vote with us when the bill finally comes up," Mr. Murtha, chairman of the Appropriations defense subcommittee, said during an appearance on ABC's "This Week."

Mr. Murtha said that he doesn't think Democrats can stop Mr. Bush from instituting the first wave of a troop surge, but that his panel will be able to pass legislation to stop further waves within a month. "I don't know how many troops they can get in the field before we get our bill up and passed in the Congress," he said.

White House spokesman Tony Snow told reporters last week that Mr. Bush already has the funds needed to support a troop surge. "Funding for the forces and to dispatch them to the region, it's already in the budget," he said. "So we're going to proceed with those plans."

But Mr. Murtha told ABC, "We're going to have extensive hearings, and we're going to look at exactly how much money he has."

"And we're going to try to change the direction of this war," he said.

Vice President Dick Cheney said any such effort would be "undercutting" U.S. forces. Moderator Chris Wallace, on "Fox News Sunday," asked Mr. Cheney what he would say to "members of Congress who may try to block" the troop increase. "Would they be, in effect, undercutting the troops?"

"Well, I think they would be," Mr. Cheney said. "We have these meetings with members of Congress, and they all agree we can't fail; the consequences of failure would be too great. But then they end up critical of what we're trying to do, advocating withdrawal or so-called redeployment of force, but they have absolutely nothing to offer in its place."

Mr. Murtha rejected Mr. Cheney's argument that opposing a troop surge amounted to not supporting the troops.

"We're giving the troops exactly what they need," he said. "As a matter of fact, I'm the one that discovered the lack of body armor. They sent troops in without body armor. They sent an inadequate force into Iraq in the first place. There's no question about my support of the military."

Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican and a vocal proponent of sending more U.S. troops to Iraq, said a congressional debate over the surge likely will help the public better understand what the plan means.

"I think the case still needs to be made," he said on CBS' "Face the Nation." "I'd be glad to have that debate."

Mr. McCain also said he thinks that Democrats who oppose a surge should make their legislation binding. Several Democrats, including Massachusetts Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, have proposed a nonbinding "disapproval" of a surge.

"Look, if these people are serious, that oppose this increase in troops and change in strategy, then they should vote to cut off funding. And that way, they can then say, 'We tried to stop it,' " Mr. McCain said. "A motion of disapproval, I view, as purely a political ploy to do further damage to the president of the United States. If they're dead serious, then we should have a motion to cut off funding."

Sen. Barack Obama, also appearing on "Face the Nation," refused to answer when asked whether he would support a binding measure to cut off funding for a troop surge. "I think this thing is going to proceed in steps," the Illinois Democrat said.

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