Two leading Senate Democrats said their party will not cut off funding for U.S. troops in Iraq, distancing themselves from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, who now says he supports doing so.
“We’re not going to vote to cut funding, period,” said Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat and Armed Services Committee chairman.
Mr. Levin said he and other Democrats would continue to pressure President Bush on enforcing benchmarks for progress in Iraq, but ultimately most of his colleagues will support funding because they do not have the votes to override Mr. Bush’s veto.
“What we’re going to try to do, a majority, I believe, of Democrats and most of the Republicans, is to vote for a bill that funds the troops, period,” he said during an appearance on ABC’s “This Week.” “We’re going to fund the troops. We always have.”
President Bush has said he will veto either the House-passed or Senate-passed supplemental war-spending bills, which both call for a withdrawal of American forces from Iraq by next year. In addition to opposing any timeline for withdrawal or redeployment, Mr. Bush and other Republicans have criticized the billions of pork-barrel spending included in both the House and Senate bills.
Mr. Reid announced his own legislation, which would cut off funding for the troops next March. Democratic Sens. John Kerry of Massachusetts and Russ Feingold of Wisconsin agreed to co-sponsor the bill, which Mr. Reid says he plans to put forward if Mr. Bush vetoes the current war supplemental-funding bill. But Mr. Levin said the majority leader spoke only for himself, not the party as a whole.
“Even Harry Reid acknowledged that that’s not going to happen,” Mr. Levin said in reference to cutting off funding. “He has a personal position, which he said was not the caucus position.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, echoed Mr. Levin’s comments on troop funding, telling “Fox News Sunday” that “We are not going to leave the troops high and dry, plain and simple. Senator Reid has said that. I’ve said that. Every leader of the Democratic Party has said that.”
Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican, said he would continue to oppose a Democratic supplemental bill that removed a timetable but contained specific benchmarks, calling it unfair to Iraqis.
“First of all, it’s premised on the notion that the Iraqis aren’t listening to us,” he said. “They are cooperating with us. So that’s old news that they’re not cooperating. That’s one of the reasons this new surge strategy is working.”
Although Mr. Reid recently changed his position to favor a withdrawal timetable, some Senate moderates said they continue to oppose what Sen. Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican, called “micromanaging” the president and generals.
“I’m not prepared to withdraw funding at this time. But my patience, like many others, is growing very thin,” Mr. Specter told CNN’s “Late Edition.”
Mr. Kyl also said withholding money to send a message to Iraqis would send other messages.
“You’re also sending a message to our troops and to our enemies, who know that all they have to do is wait the conflict out. This is not the way to try to micromanage a war from the U.S. Senate,” he said.
Sen. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut independent, also disagreed with timelines during an appearance on CNN.
“Putting a timeline on is always a mistake in war because it says that a bunch of political people in Washington know better than the generals in the field what’s going to be happening four months, six months, a year from now,” he said, “unless you are prepared to say we have lost in Iraq, we have no chance and we’re prepared to accept the consequences of withdrawal, which I think would be terrible for American security.”