Thursday, February 15, 2007

House Democrats today outlined their plan to restrict President Bush’s use of war funding, with the goal of gradually ending the war in Iraq.

“This legislation will force the administration to consider alternatives rather than escalating,” said Rep. John Murtha, Pennsylvania Democrat, during an interview that was aired this morning, in a unique twist, on a Web site:

Mr. Murtha detailed, during a 24-minute interview, his plan to use the appropriations process to hamstring the president’s use of war funds. Mr. Murtha’s plan is supported by House Democratic leaders, and is thought to be the less politically risky alternative.

Mr. Murtha repeatedly emphasized that his strategy “supports the troops” by requiring adequate training and equipment, as well as forbidding the president from sending soldiers to Iraq who have not been home, away from combat, for at least a year.

“What we’re saying, it would be very hard to find fault with. The troops have to be equipped, they have to be trained, they can’t be sent back without a year at home,” Mr. Murtha said. “People have to understand we’re supporting the troops, we’re protecting the troops, but on the other hand, we’re going to stop this surge.”

The House is in their third day today of a four-day debate over a non-binding resolution that would express disapproval of the president’s plan to “surge” around 27,000 U.S. soldiers into Iraq. But both Democrats and Republicans agree that the resolution is a prelude to the real battle in March over the appropriations for the war.

“The real vote will come on the legislation we are putting together. This nonbinding legislation is an opinion, but the legislation I am putting together first of all puts restrictions on the president,” Mr. Murtha said.

Mr. Bush yesterday said that he hopes Congress does not restrict funding for the war, and House Republicans are working to publicize statements by hardcore anti-war House Democrats who are calling for all war funding to be cut off immediately.

Cutting off all funds for U.S. soldiers in harms way is a move that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is determined to avoid, but many Democrats are receiving intense pressure from constituents to take more dramatic action against the war.

Still, House Minority Leader John Boehner, Ohio Republican, labeled Mr. Murtha’s plan “a plan to cut off funding for troops in harm’s way.”

“While American troops are fighting radical Islamic terrorists thousands of miles away, it is unthinkable that the United States Congress would move to discredit their mission, cut off their reinforcements, and deny them the resources they need to succeed and return home safely,” Mr. Boehner said in a press release. “The American people will not support a strategy that involves pulling the rug out from under American troops in the combat zone by cutting off their reinforcements and forcing them to face the enemy without our full support.”

Mr. Murtha also said that pressure must be placed on the Senate to vote up or down on the House resolution.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, tried to schedule the House resolution for a vote on Feb. 27th, when Congress returns from next week’s week-long recess. However, Senate Republicans went into an uproar when Mr. Reid tried to bar them from offering amendments to the resolution.

“Aren’t we allowed to have competing resolutions to debate and discuss?” said Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican. “I’ve never seen the Senate work this way. I have never seen the Senate only allow one proposal to be debated and voted on.”

“I am astonished,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican.

“This is a defining moment for the Senate,” said Sen. Ted Stevens, Alaska Republican. “I don’t intend to stand by and see the Senate lose its role under the Constitution … This is not just the rubber stamp of the House. That is what we will be if we follow the intention of the majority leader right now.”

Sen. Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican, warned his fellow senators that the Senate is in danger of becoming “irrelevant.”

“What we have here is that we’re close to anarchy. We have been debating the debate all week,” said Mr. Specter, who said Mr. Reid should work with Mr. McConnell instead of shutting Republicans out.

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