- The Washington Times - Monday, March 12, 2007

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Top House Democrats retreated yesterday from an attempt to limit President Bush’s authority for taking military action against Iran as the leadership concentrated on a looming confrontation with the White House over the Iraq war.

Officials said Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, and other members of the leadership had decided to strip from a major military spending bill a requirement for Mr. Bush to gain approval from Congress before moving against Iran.

Conservative Democrats as well as lawmakers concerned about the possible impact on Israel had argued for the change in strategy.

The developments occurred as Democrats pointed toward an initial test vote in the House Appropriations Committee on Thursday on the overall bill, which would require the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraq by Sept. 1, 2008, if not earlier.

The measure provides nearly $100 billion to pay for fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, and includes more money than the president requested for operations in Afghanistan and what Democrats called training and equipment shortages.

The White House has issued a veto threat against the bill. House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, issued a statement that said Democrats shouldn’t count on any help passing their legislation.

“Republicans will continue to stand united in this debate, and will oppose efforts by Democrats to undermine the ability of General Petraeus and our troops to achieve victory in the Global War on Terror,” he said.

The Iran-related proposal stemmed from a desire to make sure Mr. Bush did not start an attack without going to Congress for approval, but drew opposition from numerous members of the rank and file in a series of closed-door sessions last week.

Rep. Shelley Berkley, Nevada Democrat, said there is widespread fear in Israel about Iran, which is thought to be seeking nuclear weapons and has expressed unremitting hostility including threats to wipe the Jewish state off the map.

“It would take away perhaps the most important negotiating tool that the U.S. has when it comes to Iran,” she said of the now-abandoned provision.

“I didn’t think it was a very wise idea to take things off the table if you’re trying to get people to modify their behavior and normalize it in a civilized way,” said Rep. Gary L. Ackerman, New York Democrat.

Several officials said there was widespread opposition to the proposal at a closed-door meeting last week of conservative and moderate Democrats, who said they feared tying the hands of the administration when dealing with an unpredictable and potentially hostile regime in Tehran.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, speaking last night to the American Israel Public Affairs Council in Washington, said he fears the Iraq war will embolden Iran and threaten Israel.

Mr. Olmert told the group via teleconference from Jerusalem that while he does not want to get involved in American politics, he can “recognize the need for American success in Iraq” and gave high praise for President Bush.

Staff writer Christina Bellantoni contributed to this report.


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