- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 4, 2007

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

House Democrats are now divided among themselves over the best way to damage the war effort in Iraq. On Tuesday, House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey, and Reps. John Murtha and James McGovern, vowed to unilaterally block President Bush’s $189 billion emergency war-funding bill and called for a new income-tax surcharge of up to 15 percent to finance the war in Iraq. Mr. Obey said he would not even consider the Pentagon’s request for the new funding until early next year, and that he would work to block the president’s request unless he establishes a goal of halting combat operations in Iraq by January 2009 (irregardless of the military situation there). Mr. Obey said his tax surcharge, which would range from 2 percent for lower-income taxpayers to 15 percent for the wealthiest, would raise up to $150 billion a year.

Mr. Obey’s proposal was too much for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Both made it clear that while they have no qualms about seeing the military chased out of Iraq, they don’t want to leave Republicans an opening to criticize their advocacy of higher taxes. But the idea of increasing taxes apparently has some appeal to triangulating Republicans and Democrats. Sen. Pete Domenici described Mr. Obey’s threat as “pretty gutsy,” but admitted that he wasn’t sure that it could work, because it’s necessary to “feed the soldiers.” Sen. Judd Gregg wouldn’t reject the idea out of hand, and he indicated that he might favor an unspecified “reasonable way to help pay for some of the costs” of the war. Sen. Mark Pryor didn’t sound like he was as bothered by the prospect of military defeat in Iraq, as much as he was worried about the Democrats being labeled the party of tax and spend. “I think Democrats understand that is one of the tags the Republicans always try to put on us,” he told the Politico. “Many Democrats are sensitive to that. Given that we’re in a presidential election cycle, they don’t want to give the Republicans an issue like that.”

Mr. Obey and Mr. McGovern say candidly that they are pushing the tax increase in part to turn more Americans against the war. “If you don’t like this war, and you don’t want to pay taxes, then fight doubly hard against this war,” Mr. McGovern said. Yet another reason why Mr. Obey and some of his colleagues are pressing for a tax increase is to give themselves political leverage against Mr. Bush in debating 12 mostly domestic appropriations bills that will be coming to the floor in coming weeks. Mr. Bush has indicated he will veto most of them because they are too expensive. Many Democrats see political advantage in attacking the president for slashing domestic programs while spending more money on the war.

In all likelihood, the Democrats’ sabotage campaign will result in a bill containing $40 billion to $50 billion in new spending for the war in Iraq instead of the $189 billion requested by the president. The lower funding level undermines any effort to do long-term military planning, and in all likelihood it guarantees yet another ugly political fight over war funding early next year.

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