Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Democratic leadership yesterday sought to quell voices within their own party who want to “defund” the war in Iraq, while Republicans said that is exactly what the majority party intends to do.

The House continued its three-day, 36-hour debate on a nonbinding resolution to oppose President Bush’s plan to send more than 21,000 additional U.S. troops to Iraq.

“Some assert that this resolution is a first step to defunding our troops in the field. This is categorically false,” said Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat. “While the new majority will explore other opportunities to affect Iraq policy, our commitment to our men and women in harm’s way is unwavering.”

House Republicans accused Democrats of providing encouragement to the nation’s terrorist enemies and emphasized statements from the more liberal anti-war wing of the Democratic Party that are at odds with the leadership’s position.

Minority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, sent reporters a video montage of nine Democrats who, in various forms on Tuesday, called for a cutoff of funds for the war in Iraq.

“Congress must deny any more funds for the war,” said Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio.

“The real test for this Congress will be whether or not we continue to fund this war,” said Rep. Maxine Waters of California, the founder and chairman of the Out of Iraq Congressional Caucus.

The Republican-produced video, available publicly at, ended with a warning: “Does anyone really believe Democrats don’t plan to cut off funding for America’s troops?”

Boehner spokesman Kevin Smith said Republicans will win the public opinion battle if Democrats cut off funds.

“The American people will not tolerate Democrats who attempt to undermine our troops when they are in harm’s way,” Mr. Smith said.

The Democratic leadership appeared determined to take a less politically risky route: reducing U.S. involvement in Iraq gradually.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, and Mr. Hoyer reportedly are working with Rep. John P. Murtha, Pennsylvania Democrat, on a plan to attach restrictions to supplemental appropriations for the Defense Department.

Mr. Murtha, chairman of the Appropriations defense subcommittee, is exploring ways to restrict the use of funds allocated for troop increases. One measure would require combat training certification for all troops; another would require adequate equipment. Anti-war Democrats hope these criteria will hamstring deployment of more troops.

Mr. Murtha is set to announce his strategy in an interview with former Rep. Tom Andrews, Maine Democrat, at 11 a.m. today on, an anti-war Web site started by Mr. Andrews.

Mrs. Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, sent a letter to Mr. Bush yesterday demanding adequate equipment for U.S. troops.

“Mr. President, it is wrong to deploy troops to the Iraqi theater until they have the up-armored Humvees, equipment, lodging, training and other support required to carry out their mission. We hope you will work with us to make sure that they do,” the letter said.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee plans to run ads against Republicans — starting with Sens. John E. Sununu of New Hampshire and Gordon H. Smith of Oregon — who have supported Mr. Bush and are vulnerable in the 2008 elections. The goal is to put indirect pressure on the White House to withdraw from Iraq.

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