- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 8, 2007

House Democratic leaders endorsed a plan yesterday to dole out emergency war funds in two-month installments, immediately provoking objections from the White House.

Under the plan, Congress would approve $30.4 billion for combat operations in Iraq until July 31. President Bush then would have to show progress on policy benchmarks in Iraq to trigger a vote on $52.8 billion more to fund the troops until Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, considers it a “strong bill” that her chamber will pass, giving the House leverage to negotiate with the Senate, a senior leadership aide said.

The White House called the proposal “bad management.”

“It is sort of a start-and-stop measure,” spokeswoman Dana Perino told The Washington Times. “It will deny troops the equipment and supplies they need to prevail it will disrupt planning by their commanders.”

She declined to say whether Mr. Bush would veto the legislation, as he did a $124 billion bill because the Democrat-led Congress attached a timetable to start pulling troops out of Iraq as soon as July.

Mr. Bush demanded a “clean” bill to cover the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan until the end of the fiscal year.

The new funding scheme is a response by House Democrats to the May 1 veto of the pullout bill.

Rep. David R. Obey, Wisconsin Democrat and chairman of the Appropriations Committee, presented the installment plan yesterday at a caucus meeting, where it was warmly received, said Capitol Hill staffers familiar with the meeting.

The bill is scheduled for a vote tomorrow by the full House. A related supplemental bill for domestic programs is slated for a vote Friday.

The immediate funding includes $30.4 billion for combat operations, $4 billion for procurement, $3 billion for training local forces in Afghanistan, $2 billion for training Iraqi security forces and $3.5 billion for military health care programs.

Under the legislation, Mr. Bush would have to report by July 13 on progress toward benchmarks including reducing sectarian violence, establishing a militia-disarmament program and enacting laws to share oil revenue before Congress votes to pay $52.8 billion for two more months of war.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, said he would not rule out the House’s approach, despite the daunting task of passing the bill in his narrowly divided chamber.

“Nothing has been ruled out,” Mr. Reid said. “Here in the Senate, of course, if you look at the numbers. I can’t just jam something with Democrats, as much as I’d like to.”

Republicans on both sides of the Capitol roundly criticized the incremental war spending.

House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, said it was the Democrats’ “umpteenth half-baked proposal.”

“Rationing funds to the armed services as they fight this war is beyond irresponsible. It’s reckless,” he said. “The Democrats have made political statements for the last four months, but enough is enough. It’s time to get the job done the right way.”

“What we need is funding right now,” said Sen. Christopher S. Bond, Missouri Republican and vice chairman of the intelligence committee. “Not death by 1,000 cuts.”

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