Republican leaders and the White House conceded defeat Wednesday on a House resolution opposing President Bush's decision to send additional...
WASHINGTON — Republican leaders and the White House conceded defeat Wednesday on a House resolution opposing President Bush’s decision to send additional U.S. troops to Iraq and began looking toward the coming battle over the war’s funding.
On the second day of a four-day showdown over the nonbinding resolution, which also affirms Congress’ support for U.S. troops in Iraq, Democrats looked on as dissident Republicans denounced what they called an ill-conceived plan that puts 21,500 more combat troops in the middle of a sectarian civil war.
Some of the 11 Republicans who publicly broke with Bush were longtime opponents of the war, such as Reps. Walter Jones, of North Carolina, and Ron Paul, of Texas. Others, such as Reps. Fred Upton, of Michigan, and Jim Ramstad, of Minnesota, never sought the limelight and were almost apologetic in their speeches.
Rep. Ric Keller, Fla., a reliable conservative vote, prefaced his statement with an affirmation of support for Bush personally. But, he said, a “surge” of troops already had been attempted in Baghdad. “The benefits were temporary,” Keller said. “The body bags were permanent.”
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Those 11 could be the tip of the iceberg. One GOP lawmaker close to the leadership, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said party leaders have 50 to 60 Republicans on their watch list, with between 40 and 60 expected to break with the White House.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has announced plans for a vote on an identical bill within weeks. Prospects there are uncertain because Republicans have demanded a vote on an alternative measure that says Congress should neither cut nor eliminate funds for troops.
Next clash: money
With the House resolution headed for passage, Bush focused his attention on the next flash point: his request for an additional $174 billion to pay for the war through 2008. The additional funding would push the war’s total cost to more than $500 billion.
Congress will consider the next installment for Iraq next month, when it takes up Bush’s request for $99.6 billion in emergency funding for Iraq and Afghanistan. The rest of the Iraq money is in the president’s proposed 2008 budget, which probably won’t face votes until summer.
Bush, who acknowledged to one questioner at a morning news conference that the House was virtually certain to pass the resolution, warned Congress against any effort to restrict war funding. Democrats, under pressure from anti-war activists, have said such restrictions could be next.
“They have every right to express their opinion. … I think you can be against my decision and support the troops, absolutely. But the proof will be whether or not you provide them the money necessary,” Bush said.
Republicans think the funding debate will unite their party and expose deep fissures among Democrats, some of whom want immediate action to deny war funding. But Democratic leaders have rallied around a strategy that would fully fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan but limit Bush’s ability to use the money.
Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, will outline the Democrats’ plan formally today to anti-war groups. Rep. James Moran, D-Va., a subcommittee member, said the plan is aimed at tamping down calls from the Democrats’ liberal wing for Congress to end funding for the war.
The Murtha plan, based on military guidelines that aren’t being applied, includes a stipulation that Army troops who have served in Iraq must be granted two years at home before an additional deployment; Marines must be given 14 months at home; and any troops sent to Iraq must be deemed fully trained and equipped under existing military standards.
“They won’t be able to deploy troops unless they extend troops overseas. And if we limit the extension, then it’ll be very difficult for them to continue this surge, which the American people are against and the Iraqis don’t want,” Murtha said Wednesday on National Public Radio.
Democrats also intend to close military prisons at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and Abu Ghraib by denying funds, and to bar funds that would be used to establish permanent military bases in Iraq.
That is a fight Republican leaders appear to relish.
“There is going to be a real battle sometime in March over defunding our troops that are in harm’s way or somehow shackling the military’s ability to fight,” said House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio.
Republicans have had little success stopping Democrats over the issue at hand, the deployment of additional troops. GOP leaders have staffed an energetic rapid-response center to try to debunk Democratic arguments against Bush’s war plan.
Rank-and-file Republicans have met with national-security adviser Stephen Hadley and embassy representatives from Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. But Republicans’ efforts to hold their lawmakers off the resolution appeared to falter Wednesday.
“The resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq that we passed in fall of 2002 was never intended to authorize the use of American troops to police a civil war,” said Ramstad, the Minnesota Republican.
Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., lamented that “these are purely political statements, and the debate we should be having is the most apolitical subject of all, national security in a time of peril.” He then said he would back the resolution.
Details on Bush’s funding request were provided by McClatchy Newspapers; The Associated Press contributed information on the Senate.