Dems abandon war authority provision


Richard Moore

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Dems abandon war authority provision
By DAVID ESPO and MATTHEW LEE, Associated Press Writers
Mon Mar 12, 7:22 PM ET

Top House Democrats retreated Monday from an attempt to limit President Bush's 
authority for taking military action against Iran as the leadership concentrated
on a looming confrontation with the White House over the Iraq war.

Officials said Speaker Nancy Pelosi (news, bio, voting record) and other members
of the leadership had decided to strip from a major military spending bill a 
requirement for Bush to gain approval from Congress before moving against Iran.

Conservative Democrats as well as lawmakers concerned about the possible impact 
on Israel had argued for the change in strategy.

The developments occurred as Democrats pointed toward an initial test vote in 
the House Appropriations Committee on Thursday on the overall bill, which would 
require the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraq by Sept. 1, 2008, if not 
earlier. The measure provides nearly $100 billion to pay for fighting in two 
wars, and includes more money than the president requested for operations in 
Afghanistan and what Democrats called training and equipment shortages.

The White House has issued a veto threat against the bill, and Vice President 
Dick Cheney attacked its supporters in a speech, declaring they "are telling the
enemy simply to watch the clock and wait us out."

House GOP Leader John Boehner (news, bio, voting record) of Ohio issued a 
statement that said Democrats shouldn't count on any help passing their 
legislation. "Republicans will continue to stand united in this debate, and will
oppose efforts by Democrats to undermine the ability of General Petraeus and our
troops to achieve victory in the Global War on Terror," he said.

Top Democrats had a different perspective.

Pelosi issued a written statement that said the vice president's remarks prove 
that "the administration's answer to continuing violence in Iraq is more troops 
and more treasure from the American people."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (news, bio, voting record), D-Nev., said in a 
statement that America was less safe today because of the war. The president 
"must change course, and it's time for the Senate to demand he do it," he added.

The Iran-related proposal stemmed from a desire to make sure Bush did not launch
an attack without going to Congress for approval, but drew opposition from 
numerous members of the rank and file in a series of closed-door sessions last 

Rep. Shelley Berkley (news, bio, voting record), D-Nev., said in an interview 
there is widespread fear in Israel about Iran, which is believed to be seeking 
nuclear weapons and has expressed unremitting hostility about the Jewish state.

"It would take away perhaps the most important negotiating tool that the U.S. 
has when it comes to Iran," she said of the now-abandoned provision.

"I didn't think it was a very wise idea to take things off the table if you're 
trying to get people to modify their behavior and normalize it in a civilized 
way," said Rep. Gary Ackerman (news, bio, voting record) of New York.

Several officials said there was widespread opposition to the proposal at a 
closed-door meeting last week of conservative and moderate Democrats, who said 
they feared tying the hands of the administration when dealing with an 
unpredictable and potentially hostile regime in Tehran.

Public opinion has swung the way of Democrats on the issue of the war. More than
six in 10 Americans think the conflict was a mistake ‹ the largest number yet 
found in AP-Ipsos polling.

But Democrats have struggled to find a compromise that can satisfy both liberals
who oppose any funding for the military effort and conservatives who do not want
to unduly restrict the commander in chief.

"This supplemental should be about supporting the troops and providing what they
need," said Rep. Dan Boren (news, bio, voting record), D-Okla., on Monday upon 
returning from a trip to Iraq. Boren said he plans to oppose any legislation 
setting a clear deadline for troops to leave.

In his speech, Cheney chided lawmakers who are pressing for tougher action on 
Iran to oppose the president on the Iraq War.

"It is simply not consistent for anyone to demand aggressive action against the 
menace posed by the Iranian regime while at the same time acquiescing in a 
retreat from Iraq that would leave our worst enemies dramatically emboldened and
Israel's best friend, the United States, dangerously weakened," he said.

Copyright © 2007 The Associated Press.
Copyright © 2007 Yahoo! Inc. All rights reserved.

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