- The Washington Times - Monday, April 9, 2007

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi needs to call members of Congress back to session this week to continue working on the $124 billion supplemental bill to provide funding for troops in Iraq. The House passed its version of the emergency supplemental more than two weeks ago, but the Democratic leadership failed to take the next step and appoint members to the conference committee before members left town for a two-week break, which is scheduled to last through the end of this week. Senate conferees were appointed promptly with the hope that the conference committee would begin meeting in March. Inaction on the part of the House leadership has slowed the process, and regardless of Mrs. Pelosi’s motives, America’s soldiers will soon begin to feel the repercussions.

Recognizing the urgency with which Congress must act, Republican leadership in both the House and the Senate sent Mrs. Pelosi a letter yesterday, exhorting the speaker to return the House to session and “work in good faith to pass a clean supplemental funding bill that the President can sign as soon as possible.” The Senate, they note, “is in session and ready to work.”

Failure to expeditiously pass an acceptable supplemental, which President Bush requested more than two months ago, will hurt American soldiers sooner than some Democrats — including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who believes current funding will cover the efforts until the end of June — have argued. Army Chief of Staff Peter Schoomaker and Acting Army Secretary Pete Geren wrote at the end of March that “we are particularly concerned as Congress is set to recess until mid-April without enacting this essential legislation. Without approval of the supplemental funds in April, we will be forced to take increasingly draconian measures which will impact Army readiness and impose hardships on our soldiers and their families.”

Defense Secretary Robert Gates outlined the specific costs to the military — ranging from a reduction in training for Reserve and Guard units to a delay in forming new combat brigade teams — if the supplemental is not passed by April 15, and then if it is not passed by May 15.

The House bill, to be clear, is a flawed piece of legislation. It is a formula for nothing but defeat in Iraq, weighted by pork-barrel projects, and should be greeted by a White House veto. Congress will need to reach an agreement on an acceptable appropriations bill. This makes it even less excusable for Mrs. Pelosi to have stalled the process by leaving town without appointing conferees. The speaker now needs to cut short the House’s break and return to work.

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