- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 3, 2007

House Republicans yesterday pledged to sustain a veto of the Democrats’ war bill in a letter signed by 154 lawmakers — eight more than needed — the latest show of solidarity with President Bush.

Congressional Democrats say Republicans are following Mr. Bush “off a cliff” by backing the increasingly unpopular Iraq war.

Republicans call it a principled stand.

“Our members are trying to figure out what is the right thing to do rather than what’s the popular thing to do,” said House Minority Whip Roy Blunt, Missouri Republican.

Republicans say they are cognizant of widespread opposition to the Iraq war, as seen in a USA Today/Gallup poll last week that showed 69 percent of American adults disapprove of the president’s handling of war and 60 percent support a troop pullout by fall 2008.

But Republicans are united in opposition to the Democrats’ bills that tie emergency war funding to pullout timetables and to about $20 billion in domestic spending, including pork-barrel projects.

Their stand continues to win approval from most Republican voters, though the lawmakers say their position is not anchored by polls.

A poll published Saturday by Newsweek showed 64 percent of Republican voters oppose the March 2008 withdrawal deadline in the bill passed last week by the Senate.

“Hopefully, the most important of public policy — that is peace and war — are not determined by this week’s poll,” said Rep. Jerry Lewis of California, ranking Republican on the House Appropriations Committee.

“And in the long term, either we are a force for freedom in the world or we are not,” Mr. Lewis said. “Saddam Hussein was worth getting rid of. … Everybody voted to do that, including the Democrats.”

The letter to the president focused on the pork spending in the $124 billion war bill.

“This letter sends a strong message that Republicans will continue to fight for a clean troop-funding bill, without tying funding for our generals and our troops to arbitrary restrictions or pork-barrel projects,” said House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican.

Mr. Bush said he would veto a bill with excess domestic spending or a pullout deadline.

The narrow margins the bills passed by, mostly along party lines, make it unlikely Democrats in either chamber can muster the two-thirds majority needed to overturn a veto.

Both the House and Senate bills contained both pork spending and pullout timetables, veto-provoking elements likely to appear in the final bill to be hammered out when Congress returns from its spring break April 16.

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada says he will try to cut off war funding if Mr. Bush blocks a troop-withdrawal timetable.

By threatening to join forces with Sen. Russ Feingold, Wisconsin Democrat and longtime proponent of cutting off funding to end the war, Mr. Reid upped the ante in the standoff with the president.

Mr. Reid and other party leaders have resisted calls from anti-war Democrats to cut the funding to avoid criticism for not supporting troops in combat.

“If the president vetoes the supplemental appropriations bill and continues to resist changing course in Iraq, I will work to ensure this legislation receives a vote in the Senate in the next work period,” said Mr. Reid.

Mr. Reid finds Republican loyalty to the president “a little puzzling,” said spokesman Jim Manley.

“They are significantly at odds with the American people,” he said. “More importantly, they continue to put our troops in harm by requiring them to operate in the middle of a civil war.”

The USA Today/Gallup poll showed 61 percent of voters oppose cutting funds for troops.

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