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Because it’s “time to get out.” Via the Brattleboro Reformer:
WASHINGTON — Fearing President Bush is poised to escalate the Iraq war, several New England Democrats said they will support spending restrictions to block a potential troop surge, or even leverage a withdrawal.
It is a challenging maneuver that could crosscut the promises of their incoming Democratic leaders to financially support the administration’s war plan while simultaneously calling on the president to reduce the United States’ presence in Iraq.
Moreover, the attempts to design spending roadblocks are muddied by divisions within a Democratic Party leery two years before a presidential election of losing its new and narrow majority by appearing soft on terrorism and against the troops, lawmakers and analysts say.
Still, several New England lawmakers expressed frustration with reports that Bush might stream up to 30,000 troops into Iraq. The lawmakers said they would support attempts to employ congressional purse powers to block any move toward enlarging the U.S. footprint in a country descending toward civil war.
Others said they would try to cut funding altogether, with or without the surge.
Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, is having discussions with other senators about legislation that would restrict the president’s use of the military.
He said the “only way” a withdrawal would occur is through the budget process.
“I don’t know anyone who believes we’ll see an end to (the Iraq war) the way we’re doing it now,” he said in an interview. “It’s time to get out of there.”
If the president rejects the Iraq Study Group recommendations, such as withdrawing troops by 2008, the spending measure could provide an opening for lawmakers to place restrictions on the president’s use of military money.
“What will the president do? That’s the $64 million question,” said Congressman-elect Peter Welch, D-Vt. “I would oppose adding troops. And I would support steps to deny funding for adding more troops.”
There is a movement in Congress to halt all funding for the war, but it has gained only marginal support.
Nineteen House members signed onto the measure, offered by Rep. James McGovern, D-Mass., last year to slash all funding for military operations in Iraq, except the cost of mobilizing a withdrawal.
Aside from McGovern, Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., was the only other New England House member to cosponsor the bill, named the “End the War in Iraq Act.”
McGovern’s bill is reminiscent of a similar effort to end the Vietnam War, offered by former Sens. Mark Hatfield of Oregon and George McGovern of South Dakota in 1970. The Hatfield-McGovern amendment, later named the “Amendment to End the War,” was narrowly defeated on the floor, but marked a turning point after which several narrower spending measures restricting military operations in Southeast Asia were adopted.
Now similar amendments that could restrict the president’s options in Iraq are being discussed, said Rep. Marty Meehan, D-Mass., a member of the Armed Services Committee.
“Many of us are discussing all options relative to funding and what we can do to get us out of Iraq,” he said in an interview. “To the extent there are amendments to push the administration on Iraq, I think you’ll see those kind of amendments.”
Rep. Jack Murtha, D-Pa., has proposed banning any money for permanent bases in Iraq. John Podesta, former chief of staff under President Clinton, urged lawmakers this week to pass a measure prohibiting Bush from deploying more than 150,000 troops to Iraq.
Divisions within the Democratic Party, however, could prevent those and other measures from passing. Incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has dismissed efforts to cut troop funding, and incoming Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has endorsed a troop surge if it hastens training of Iraqi forces.
Rep. Michael Capuano, D-Mass., is on Pelosi’s transition team. He said the divergence among Democrats “is going to be very, very difficult” for Pelosi to manage.
“The Democratic caucus is not unified,” added Capuano, who supports withholding Iraq war funding, except from the cost of bringing troops home.
Rep. Charlie Rangel, the new head of the House Ways and Means Committee (who has been busy these days mocking our Commander in Chief), is not mentioned in that piece but he is also a proponent of cutting off funds for the Iraq war.
I so hope they try this. I really, really do. Let’s have a national debate about funding the war, Democrats, ok? And Republicans, don’t forget to mention the last time this happened and who was responsible for it.
Democrats don’t mind continuing to throw money into failed social program after failed social program here in the United States over and over and over again year after year because they don’t want to “hurt the poor” and really believe these programs do “some good” but yet they don’t seem to mind financially undercutting (or at the very least considering it) war missions past and present when they believe them to be failures. In other words, they’re ok with continuously funding their failures, but not ok with funding what they believe to be Republican failures.
For all the bumbling and stumbling we’ve sometimes seen from the Republican leadership on the Iraq war, putting Democrats in control of the purse strings of it was tantamount to putting the Keystone Cops in charge of our national security.
God help us all.