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Democratic Field Seeks New Moves to Halt War

Presidential candidate and former senator John Edwards addresses supporters in Everett, Wash. The North Carolina Democrat supports resubmitting to President Bush a war funding bill with a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq, despite yesterday's veto.
Presidential candidate and former senator John Edwards addresses supporters in Everett, Wash. The North Carolina Democrat supports resubmitting to President Bush a war funding bill with a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq, despite yesterday's veto. (By Ted S. Warren -- Associated Press)

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By Dan Balz and David S. Broder
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Democratic presidential candidates urged Congress yesterday not to yield to President Bush's veto of an Iraq funding bill that included a timetable for beginning troop withdrawals, but the party's two leading contenders were more tentative than their rivals in offering support for aggressive steps to bring the war to an end.

Four candidates -- Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, Sen. Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and former senator John Edwards of North Carolina -- called on Democrats to consider more drastic steps aimed at ending the war.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, however, argued that Congress should stay focused on the fight over the supplemental funding bill before considering more far-reaching steps favored by their rivals. Clinton hinted that she is open to compromise with the president, but she declined to specify the shape of an agreement.

Obama and Clinton were on opposite sides of the Iraq war at its outset, with Obama opposed to the invasion and Clinton among the Democrats who voted for the 2002 resolution authorizing the war. But on the day Bush was challenging Congress, the two front-runners for the Democratic presidential nomination found themselves at odds with their rivals in considering other steps beyond the veto fight to force troop withdrawals.

Biden and Edwards urged Democrats to send the supplemental funding bill back to the president and force him to veto it again. "I favor a relentless push on the president, with every penny the troops need, because this guy is not going to change until the Republicans up here crack," Biden said in an interview. "That is happening, but it may take until September."

Edwards, through an aide, said Democrats should not back down because of the veto. "Congress should send him another bill with a timeline for withdrawal, and if he vetoes that bill Congress should send him another until we end this war and bring our troops home," Edwards said.

Richardson, who favors a quick end to the war, argued for a major strategic shift by the Democrats. Rather than focusing on the supplemental funding bill, he said, Democrats should try to win support for a resolution that would take away Bush's authority to continue the war.

Richardson argued that the 2002 resolution is invalid because it was based on the assumption that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. If Congress passed a resolution de-authorizing the war, he said, Bush would be forced to challenge it in the courts and ultimately the Supreme Court would have to rule on it.

"I would go with this very clear de-authorization issue," he said in a telephone interview from Nevada. "There are other issues besides the war in Iraq that are at stake. One is Congress's responsibility to initiate a war. It's got to be a constitutional issue, a separation-of-powers issue."

Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (D-Ohio) said Congress should simply refuse to provide any additional money for the war.

In contrast to Biden, Dodd, Edwards, Kucinich and Richardson, the front-runners offered more cautious responses to Bush's veto.

Clinton issued a statement through her Senate office urging Bush to begin to negotiate with congressional Democrats "on a funding bill that will enable us to begin redeploying our troops."


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