Democrats Differ on Iraq Bill's Bite

Marines launch a mission in Iraq's Anbar province, a hotbed of insurgent violence. The president wants to send thousands more Marines there.
Marines launch a mission in Iraq's Anbar province, a hotbed of insurgent violence. The president wants to send thousands more Marines there. (By John Moore -- Getty Images)
By Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 15, 2007

Members of the House and Senate yesterday outlined plans for legislation that if approved would put Congress on record opposing President Bush sending more troops to Iraq and possibly limit funds to allow the entire 21,500 deployment to take place.

Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he is working with a bipartisan group of senators to pass a nonbinding resolution "simply saying that we do not agree that more troops are the answer." Levin said he would not support a fund cutoff. He said yesterday on CNN's "Late Edition" that his approach "will be a very strong message to the Iraqis that they've got to resolve their political differences."

The Bush administration believes it has the funds to support the troop increase from the fiscal 2007 Defense Appropriations bill, the one money measure passed last year, national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley said yesterday.

"We have money in the '07 budget, which has been appropriated by the Congress, to move these troops to Iraq, and the president will be doing that," Hadley said on ABC's "This Week."

Appearing on the same program, Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.), chairman of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, said he would not limit funds for the troops already in Iraq but would try to put language in the bill carrying supplemental funds for the war that could prevent the final two U.S. brigades from going over in April and May.

His vehicle would be the roughly $100 billion in supplemental funds for the war that the White House has said it would send Congress in February. Murtha said he would use hearings on that legislation to show there are no reserve U.S. troops available in case of conflicts with Iran or North Korea.

Describing the limitations he might put on the supplemental bill, Murtha said, "I'm going to build a case that says we're in danger because we don't have a strategic reserve" and that troops should not be sent back if they haven't finished their training cycle. He also said, "I don't know how many troops they can get in the field before we get our bill up and passed in the Congress."

Bush, Vice President Cheney and Republican legislators yesterday voiced their opposition to any legislation. "I fully understand they [Congress] could try to stop me from doing it. But I've made my decision. And we're going forward," Bush said last night on CBS's "60 Minutes." On "Fox News Sunday," Cheney discounted legislative action saying it was like trying to "run a war by committee."

Asked about the Levin approach, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said, "A motion of disapproval, I view, as purely a political ploy to do further damage to the president of the United States. If they're dead serious, then we should have a motion to cut off funding."

Appearing on CBS's "Face the Nation," McCain added: "The American people deserve this debate. I think we can make our case in that debate and convince some of our colleagues, who are frankly and understandably agonized and frustrated by this whole situation."

Also on CBS, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) said, "I think that all of us are concerned in making sure that whatever resolutions or legislation or proposals that are out there don't potentially strand troops that are already there."

Levin said the threat by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to filibuster his resolution shows "the administration would be very much worried about a majority vote if 51 senators included a bunch of Republicans."

© 2007 The Washington Post Company