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Democrats weigh post-veto Iraq options

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070422/ap_on_go_co/us_iraq_options;_ylt=AjUzNJGKLN2rBXi55fw95DOs0NUE Democrats weigh post-veto Iraq options By ANNE FLAHERTY,
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 22, 2007

      Democrats weigh post-veto Iraq options

      By ANNE FLAHERTY, Associated Press Writer 8 minutes

      WASHINGTON - Democrats are considering their next step
      after President Bush's inevitable veto of their war
      spending proposal, including a possible short-term
      funding bill that would force Congress to revisit the
      issue this summer.

      Another alternative is providing the Pentagon the
      money it needs for the war but insisting that the
      Iraqi government live up to certain political
      promises. Or, the congressional Democrats could send
      Bush what he wants for now and set their sights on
      2008 spending legislation.

      The options are being weighed as Bush and Congress
      head toward a showdown this week on his Iraq policy.
      House and Senate appropriations meet Monday to
      negotiate a final bill that, if approved by both
      chambers, could reach the president's desk as early as
      the end of the week.

      Army Gen. David Petraeus, commander of the Iraq war,
      is expected to brief lawmakers behind closed doors as
      they cast their final vote.

      The legislation is expected to fund the Iraq war but
      call for combat troops to leave, probably by March 31,
      2008. Bush has promised to reject it and Republicans
      say they will back him, leaving Democrats short of the
      two-thirds majority support needed to override the

      Setting an end date to the war before it's won "would
      be a death blow to forces of moderation throughout the
      Middle East," said Sen. Lindsey Graham (news, bio,
      voting record), R-S.C.

      Democratic leaders have been reluctant to discuss
      their next step, focusing instead on their ability to
      send Bush legislation rebuking his Iraq policy. But
      other lawmakers say there is no denying that Democrats
      do not have the two-thirds majority needed to override
      Bush's veto. And soon enough, everyone will be asking
      what happens next.

      Rep. John Murtha (news, bio, voting record), D-Pa.,
      who chairs the House panel that oversees military
      funding, said he wants a bill that would fund the war
      for just two or three months. Before that second bill
      would expire in summer, Democrats would try again to
      pass legislation calling for an end to combat.

      Bush has said the military needs more than $90 billion
      through September, most of which would finance combat
      in Iraq and Afghanistan.

      Murtha's proposal would give Democrats time to try to
      rally support among Republicans growing increasingly
      frustrated with the war who have so far been reluctant
      to tie the hands of their GOP president.

      The tact also would attract party liberals in the
      House who don't want to fund the war at all.

      Rep. Lynn Woolsey (news, bio, voting record) said she
      likes the idea of a limited funding bill because it
      keeps open the possibility that Congress will cut off
      money for the war this summer.

      "Look at it every single day," Woolsey, D-Calif., said
      of the violence in Iraq. "I hope it's not worse, but
      it will be. . . . In two months, it might be that
      there should be no more money" for the war.

      But that impression is precisely why such a plan would
      be difficult to pass in the House and likely sink in
      the Senate, where more conservative Democrats say they
      prefer other means to twist the president's arm.

      Cutting off funding for the war is the "wrong message
      to our troops" and would fail, said Sen. Carl Levin
      (news, bio, voting record), chairman of the Armed
      Services Committee. Then "the defeat of an effort to
      cut funding would be used by the president as evidence
      of support for his policy," he added.

      Accordingly, Levin said he would support legislation
      that would fund the war through September but insist
      the Iraqi government live up to its political

      Last fall, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki
      pledged to make laws establishing provincial
      elections, regulate distribution of the country's oil
      wealth and reverse measures that have excluded many
      Sunnis from jobs and government positions because of
      Baath party membership.

      Levin, D-Mich., said that should Bush veto the war
      spending bill, Democrats could pass legislation that
      would drop the timetable for U.S. troop withdrawal but
      require the Iraqis meet certain benchmarks. He
      declined to provide further specifics.

      In order to attract GOP support and force Bush to sign
      the bill, Democrats would have to craft language that
      gives the president some flexibility. At the same
      time, Democratic leaders will have to persuade their
      own party members that the bill still challenges
      Bush's Iraq policy.

      "The greater clarity of the consequences for the
      failure to meet the benchmarks, the greater pressure
      on Iraqi leaders," Levin said.

      White House spokeswoman Dana Perino dismissed Murtha's
      suggestion of a short-term funding bill and said
      Democrats should focus instead on providing troops
      what they need.

      "Since there's only five months left in this
      supplemental, having this same debate in another
      month, given their track record on producing
      legislation, doesn't seem prudent," Perino said.

      Rep. James Moran (news, bio, voting record), a member
      of defense appropriations panel, said Democrats might
      not have much of a choice in responding to Bush's veto
      other than to consider the short-term funding bill.

      "We don't want to throw in the towel," said Moran,
      D-Va. "The problem is (Bush) is willing to play
      chicken with funding the troops and we aren't. We just
      aren't going to take a chance (the Pentagon) will run
      out of funding for the troops."
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