- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Anti-war Democrats in the House said yesterday they would help deny supplemental funding for U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan if the leadership refuses amendments that would limit spending to the current deployment and to a troop withdrawal.

“Some people want out of the war. That’s how they got elected, man,” said Rep. Lynn Woolsey, California Democrat and co-founder of the 76-member Out of Iraq Caucus. “The supplemental pays for the escalation.”

The party’s left wing could nix the administration’s request for more than $100 billion of added funds for the war — which Defense Department officials say they need by April to keep fighting — if it is joined in a “no” vote by Republicans opposed to other restrictions Democrats want on the spending.

“The supplemental could sink,” a senior Republican aide said. “House Republicans will oppose any supplemental that cuts funds or tries to attach specific conditions for our troops in harm’s way.”

Democrats have struggled to appease their anti-war base while not alienating the party’s Blue Dogs, who don’t want to cut funds for troops in the field.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, and other leaders have worked behind the scenes for at least a week to mend fissures in the party.

But war critics say the leadership now has gone too far to give President Bush authority to proceed with plans to send 21,500 more troops to Iraq.

At a caucus meeting yesterday, Democratic leaders angered anti-war members by threatening to block them out of the Iraq debate.

They told the members, according to participants, that no amendments would be accepted on the supplemental appropriations bill, which likely will include measures to make deployments contingent on troops meeting readiness standards and Iraqis meeting benchmarks for self-governance.

“I’m not upset; I’m voting ‘no,’ ” said Rep. Diane Watson, California Democrat and Out of Iraq Caucus member. “I cannot go back to my district and say I gave a waiver to the president to keep troops in Iraq.”

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer said he wasn’t ready to guarantee a vote on an amendment that would require funds to pay for a troop withdrawal, even if it would bring anti-war representatives onboard.

“We’re not talking about guarantees at this point in time,” the Maryland Democrat said. “We are discussing whether or not members will feel the necessity to offer such an amendment.”

He said the aim of the Iraq debate was to “make policy, not just make points.”

Minority Whip Roy Blunt, Missouri Republican, said the back-and-forth among Democrats was delaying consideration of critical funding for troops in combat.

“House Democrats find themselves in a tough political spot right now, but that hardly gives them license to further delay the delivery of these vital funds for our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan,” he said. “There’s a reason the supplemental bill is filed under ‘emergency spending,’ and it’s not so that we can sit around and wait for Democrats to think through their political challenges instead of actively engaging the logistical ones.”

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