- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 15, 2003

A number of Democrats, including presidential candidates, party leaders and the Congressional Black Caucus, have announced they will vote against the Iraq spending bill.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, said yesterday she will vote against the president’s request for $87 billion to replenish U.S. troops, fund the global war on terror and fund reconstruction in Iraq.

“It is time for the Bush Administration to be held accountable for its policy, which miscalculated the risk in post-war Iraq, misunderstood the challenge, and misrepresented the facts,” she said in a statement, saying that “American soldiers are taking virtually all the risks and the American taxpayers are paying virtually all the bills.”

The Black Caucus announced most of its members will also oppose the money.

“We are leading this Congress and the Democratic Caucus in saying ‘No’ to the president,” said Rep. Maxine Waters of California, a member of the all-Democrat caucus.

As the date for a final vote on the president’s $87 billion request nears, the pressure is mounting on Democrats to oppose Mr. Bush.

Still, their opposition likely won’t change the outcome of the bill, since many Democrats, including some presidential candidates and Hill leaders, plan on supporting the final version. Both chambers expect to pass their own versions by tomorrow.

Presidential contender Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina said Tuesday he will oppose the bill, and Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts this weekend said he is leaning in that same direction.

“I believe we have a responsibility to support our troops in Iraq. I believe we have a responsibility to help rebuild Iraq. But our troops will not be safer and this mission will never be successful unless the president dramatically changes course,” Mr. Edwards said in a statement.

In action on the bill yesterday the Senate supported increasing the Army’s active-duty strength by 10,000 soldiers, despite the objections of the Pentagon.

“There is an urgent need for Congress to take steps to provide the Army the tools it needs to rotate troops in and out of Iraq without sending the same units again and again,” said Sen. Jack Reed, Rhode Island Democrat and sponsor of the amendment.

But the proposal’s opponents said the Army has all the troops it needs for Iraq, and that any new troops authorized by the amendment would be years away from being a reality.

“It takes three to five years to train those additional soldiers,” said Sen. Ted Stevens, Alaska Republican and chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “We do not need any more troops. Gen. [John] Abizaid testified, he has troops he doesn’t need. He’s going to start bringing some home.”

Senate Republicans tried to kill the amendment through a procedural vote to table it, but that failed on a 52-45 vote. Republicans may still try to force another vote.

The Senate has been debating its bill for several days, while the House began its debate yesterday. Still to come are amendments in both houses to finance the roughly $20 billion contained in the bill for reconstruction in Iraq through a loan rather than a grant — something the administration adamantly opposes.

Yesterday Vice President Dick Cheney met with Senate Republicans to try to head off such an attempt, but some Republicans said they will still try.

“I think the question is how best now to address that issue through various amendments,” said Sen. Olympia Snowe, Maine Republican, who is one of a bipartisan group pushing for loans.

As for Democrats, many of them have said they will vote for the final bill even if it does follow the president’s request.

Rep. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri and Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, both Democratic presidential contenders, have announced that they will vote for the president’s request. Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat and the House minority whip, second to Mrs. Pelosi, also said he will vote for it and said he expects it to gain “significant Democratic votes.”

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