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Does Congress have the guts to stand up to President George W. Bush and withhold funding for his illegal and immoral war in Iraq?
Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill claim they do. Of course, they have claimed that before and then caved when Bush played the “support our troops” card.
Now Congressional leaders say they will withhold funding until after the first of the year and the propagandists at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue are cranking out talking points saying the party of the donkey is making an ass of itself by abandoning our troops in the field.
Democrats say they are merely carrying out the will of voters who put them into power in the 2006 midterm elections but those same voters have waited in vain for 11 months to see that promise kept.
Bush has made it clear time and time again that he doesn’t give a damn what the people think. He’s the decider and only he, in his mind, is smart enough to make the decision.
So a new standoff begins.
Congress likely will hold off on sending President Bush money for Iraq until early next year, pushing the Pentagon to the brink of an accounting nightmare and deepening Democrats’ conflict with the White House on the war.
Democrats say the tough approach is needed.
“Everybody knows that the president is stuck in his place, a place where he wants a 10-year war,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said.
This week, the House passed, 218-203, a $50 billion bill that would pay for combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan — about one-fourth of the amount Bush wants — but require that troops start coming home. The measure sets a goal of ending combat by Dec. 15, 2008.
The Senate planned to vote as early as Friday on the measure, although it was not expected to pass. Democrats hold a narrow majority and 60 votes are needed for the measure to advance.
Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Thursday that if Congress was unable to pass legislation that sets a timetable on the war — the most likely scenario — they would drop the issue until next year. In the meantime, Democrats say, the Pentagon can eat into its $471 billion annual budget without being forced to take drastic steps.
“The days of a free lunch are over,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that unless Congress passes funding for the war within days, he will direct the Army and Marine Corps to begin developing plans to lay off employees and terminate contracts early next year.
Gates, who met with lawmakers on Wednesday, said he does not have the money or the flexibility to move funds around to adequately cover the costs of the continuing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“There is a misperception that this department can continue funding our troops in the field for an indefinite period of time through accounting maneuvers, that we can shuffle money around the department. This is a serious misconception,” Gates told reporters at the Pentagon.
As a result, he said he is faced with the undesirable task of preparing to cease operations at Army bases by mid-February, and lay off about 100,000 defense department employees and an equal number of civilian contractors. A month later, he said, similar moves would have to be made by the Marines.
Some members of Congress believe the Pentagon can switch enough money to cover the war accounts, Gates said. But he added that he only has the flexibility to transfer about $3.7 billion, which is just one week’s worth of war expenses. Lawmakers, he said, may not understand how complicated and restrictive the situation is.