- The Washington Times - Friday, March 2, 2007

Republicans in Congress — including most who have defected from President Bush’s plan to send reinforcements to Iraq — have closed ranks and are prepared to thwart the Democrats’ continued efforts to undermine the war strategy.

Most of the 17 House Republicans who voted for a resolution against the troop-surge plan — which was about half the number predicted by Democrats — now oppose moves to cut war funding or attach conditions to appropriations bills that would hamstring the war effort.

All but one of the seven Senate Republicans that backed the anti-surge resolution in their chamber say they will not support any funding cuts. The one other dissident Republican — Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska — declined to comment on the issue.

“I don’t think we should micromanage the war or tie the president’s hands,” said Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, a Virginia Republican who last month voted with Democrats to pass a nonbinding resolution disapproving of Mr. Bush’s plan to deploy 21,500 more troops.

“The question of the surge was one of policy [and] an opportunity for me to express my frustration with the policy,” Mr. Davis said. “But when it comes to conducting the war, that is the president’s authority. … We have to close ranks behind him and allow this [plan] to work.”

Rep. Phil English of Pennsylvania, another Republican now supporting the president after helping pass the nonbinding resolution, called the Democrats’ proposals “a direct body blow to U.S. troops.”

Democrats have struggled to appease their anti-war support base while not exposing themselves to criticism for endangering troops in the field. Their leaders have continued to block proposals from some of their rank and file to cut off war funding, which is Congress’ chief weapon and would end U.S. involvement in Iraq.

The leadership, nevertheless, remains determined to block the president’s war plan with moves somewhat shy of pulling the funding plug.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, intends to put forward a plan to either curb funding or presidential war powers later this month.

“We are prepared to give the troops everything they need,” Reid spokesman Jim Manley said. “The goal is to redeploy the troops and bring as many home as soon as possible.”

House Democrats are considering putting conditions on the war funding, such as requiring the president to certify that troops meet stringent readiness standards before deployment, that would make it difficult if not impossible to deploy reinforcements.

A series of ideas to incrementally restrict funding have failed to gain traction, including a proposal last week by Rep. John P. Murtha, the Pennsylvania Democrat leading the anti-war push.

Mr. Murtha, chairman of the defense appropriations subcommittee, wants to effectively stop the surge in midstream by amending the war-funding bill to limit troops to one-year stints in Iraq with at least one year at home between deployments. The troops also would have to be certified as fully trained and equipped before being deployed.

“If they want to cut the funding, they ought to have the courage to stand up and do it forthright,” said House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican.

“So let’s quit hiding in the shadow of the tree, trying to decide what [the Democrats’] strategy is,” he said. “They have no strategy to stop the war. They have no strategy to win the war.”

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