Democrats Try New Approach to War Funding
Congress continues to wrestle with funding for the U.S. military operation in Iraq, vowing to support the troops while also imposing new restraints on the Bush administration.
The House is now working on a bill that would give the president some of the money he wants now, but force him to come back in July for the rest.
Republicans say that's the wrong way to go, but in the heat of public disapproval Republicans are also showing signs of waning patience.
Democrats say they want to fund the troops in Iraq while making it clear the president no longer has a free hand regarding the war.
They tried to tie the money to timelines for troop withdrawals. Mr. Bush vetoed that.
Now the Democrats' approach is not timelines for the troops, but new controls on how money is paid out to the Pentagon.
Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, the House Democratic Caucus Chairman, says the new approach is a response to what Congress is hearing from the people.
"They think more troops, more time and more money will just give us more of the same," Emanuel said.
Emanuel and other House leaders are working on legislation that would provide war funding totaling $30 billion to cover the coming two months.
The president would then have to come back for another $53 billion in July to cover the rest of the fiscal year that ends in September.
"You well know that what's happening on the ground in Iraq is changing rapidly," Emanuel said. "So it gives us a chance to respond accordingly both to what we're hearing from our constituents... our desire to be honest to the notion and sense that we need new policy initiatives that haven't been seen."
Response to the Democrats' proposal came quickly from Rep. Adam Putnam of Florida, the number-three Republican leader in the House.
"It's an irresponsible approach. You do not fund wars 60 days at a time," Putnam said.
White House Press Secretary Tony Snow called it "bad management" and said it would hinder military commanders.
"It denies you the ability for the long-range planning and procurement necessary," Snow said. "It creates instability and uncertainty in daily operations that really is not consistent with a fully effective military operation."
Snow wouldn't say whether the president would veto such a short-term funding bill. After all, it does not contain calls for troops to withdraw by any specific date, nor does it have the minimum-wage hike or pork-barrel spending the president objected to in his veto message.
But Snow stressed that it's important for funds to be committed through the end of the fiscal year.
That comes at the end of September, a month mentioned this week by House Republican Leader John Boehner of Ohio. He spoke on Fox News Sunday about measuring benefits from the increase in U.S. troops now under way.
"We get to September or October, members are going to want to know how well this is working, and if it isn't, what's Plan B," Boehner said.
Two days later on Capitol Hill, Republicans seemed to be backing off that time frame, saying it was too soon to predict what things will look like in the fall.
"Let's see what happens in August and September, and June and July," said House Minority Whip Roy Blunt, a Republican from Missouri. "We've got a new commander, and a new plan. Anticipating what the members are going to think 30 days from now or 120 days from now is impossible with any certainty."
That new commander, Gen. David Petraeus, is to provide a status report in September on the impact troop increases are having in Iraq.
That report could bring new life to the president's strategy, or it could bring the day when congressional opposition to the war becomes truly bipartisan.
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