- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Top Democrats in Congress are ignoring calls from within their caucus to eliminate funding for troops in Iraq, a strategy some say is necessary to end U.S. involvement in the war.

“There is only one way in which the United States will withdraw from Iraq prior to the end of President Bush’s term,” said Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich, Ohio Democrat. “Congress must vote to cut off funds.”

Democratic leaders flatly rejected the idea yesterday, insisting they will move to “change the course” of the war but will continue to appropriate money to support the troops fighting in Iraq. The Democrats won back the House and Senate leadership in large part with staunch opposition to the Iraq war, but many worry that cutting off funding would seem unpatriotic.

“My only real comment is you have to support the troops,” incoming House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton said about the Kucinich proposal. The Missouri Democrat initially supported the war but now wants gradual troop withdrawal.

Mr. Kucinich is trying to convince his colleagues that resolutions to withdraw troops have no legal effect as long as the president receives appropriations to continue the war. He said Congress must “force a new direction” in Iraq.

“Even a substantial reduction of funds could leave open the door for a legal claim that Congress still intends to keep troops in Iraq,” said Mr. Kucinich, a Democratic presidential contender in 2004.

Several members of the Out of Iraq Caucus support a less drastic measure to end war funding.

Rep. Jim McGovern, Massachusetts Democrat, said his plan would send “a signal that our occupation has to end.” It would cut off most funding but leave money for the “safe and orderly” withdrawal of troops, economic recovery and international peacekeeping.

Mr. McGovern’s proposal has 18 co-sponsors. Mr. Kucinich’s plan, which has not surfaced in the form of a bill, has received no endorsement.

Party leaders instead favor setting conditions on appropriations.

“As long as our troops are in harm’s way, Democrats will be there to support them,” said House Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi of California. “We will not cut off funding for the troops.”

Democrats downplayed intraparty divisions. “No matter how you look at it, there is a consensus this war needs to end,” Mr. McGovern said.

Rep. Barney Frank, Massachusetts Democrat, dismissed the Kucinich plan as “silly,” but one Republican said it is the most genuine proposal he has heard from a war opponent.

“I completely disagree with him, but he is the only honest voice of liberalism in the House,” said Rep. Patrick T. McHenry of North Carolina.

Rep. John P. Murtha of Pennsylvania, the incoming chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on defense, told fellow Democrats that he will now allow an emergency request from the White House for billions of dollars in supplemental appropriations and will insist that the president lay out exact spending plans for completing the mission in Iraq.

Majority Leader-elect Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, said conditions “may well be attached” to the next such bill, expected to total $160 billion.

Mrs. Pelosi said Democrats will insist on oversight, which includes investigations into missing defense appropriations and subcontractors such as Halliburton Co.

Some anti-war groups think that cutting off funding would be a quick way to end the conflict. Democrats took such action in 1974 during the Vietnam War. When a $70 billion spending measure was up for a vote in September, only 20 House Democrats opposed it. It received unanimous support in the Senate.

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