- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 25, 2007

Campaign staffers from both parties are using the vote on Democrats’ troop withdrawal plan to target vulnerable members of Congress in the 2008 races.

Within hours of the House’s 218-212 vote Friday, Republicans sent 50 campaign missives saying Democrats were “waving a white flag of surrender” by approving a war-funding bill that set a timetable for pulling troops from Iraq.

“It’s not a vote that’s going to be forgotten any time soon,” said Ken Spain, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC).

Democrats plan to portray votes against the bill as rubber stamps for an unpopular president when they campaign against the Republicans who opposed it.

“We had two choices: more troops, more money, more time, more of the same, no strings attached,” said Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, the Democratic Caucus chairman. “That is what the president has had for four years, and he has asked for another year of exactly the same thing.”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California said a vote against the bill equated to renewing President Bush’s “blank check for an open-ended commitment to a war without end.”

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) echoed this theme, saying Democrats were bringing accountability and oversight “for the first time in six years.”

The NRCC’s campaign message hitting 50 members, mostly freshmen, said approval of the measure was akin to setting “a date certain for retreat and defeat in Iraq” and embracing a plan “to cut off funding for our troops.”

Rep. Michael Arcuri, a freshman Democrat from New York, said voters sent him to Washington “to stand up against the mismanagement of this war.”

Mrs. Pelosi defended freshmen Democrats, all of whom voted for her Iraq plan. She cited their election victories last year as the reason Congress is pressuring Mr. Bush to end the war.

The Club for Growth’s political action committee targeted five freshman Democrats — Nancy Boyda of Kansas, Nick Lampson of Texas, Tim Mahoney of Florida, Harry E. Mitchell of Arizona and Heath Shuler of North Carolina — who won their seats in November in districts that overwhelmingly supported the re-election of Mr. Bush in 2004. The committee noted that the $124 billion bill contains millions of dollars in pork spending.

“Many candidates say the right things on the campaign trail, but have little or no intention of following through on their promises once elected,” said Pat Toomey, president of the Club for Growth, which supports mostly Republicans.

Although Mr. Mitchell voted for the bill, he rebuked Democratic leaders for including pork projects and for insisting on including a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. He said the measure, on balance, “did more good than harm,” with nearly $2 billion for veterans health care and improvements to Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

“I am also disappointed that leadership saw fit to include millions of dollars for unrelated spending projects for shrimp farmers and peanut-storage facilities,” he said, promising to work to strip that money from the bill before a final version leaves Capitol Hill.

Mrs. Boyda, one of Republicans’ top targets for 2008, said, “A nay vote told President Bush that everything is going fine in Iraq, that it is OK to stretch our military to the breaking point. And that’s just not right.”

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