Canton Repository

February 15, 2007

Dems may try to cut off funds for troop surge

By Paul M. Krawzak
Copley News Service


WASHINGTON As they prepare to cast a symbolic vote against President Bush's Iraq policy on Friday, some Democratic lawmakers also are considering something with more teeth - a cutoff in funding for the surge of troops into Iraq.

Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Niles, an opponent of the troop increase, said Wednesday he would vote to deny funds to prevent additional troops from being sent to Iraq.

While there are no current plans by Congress to cut off funding for the war, there are indications Democratic leaders might attempt to halt the buildup later this year by placing restrictions on defense funds.

VOTE LOOMS

The House will vote Friday on a Democratic-drafted statement that would express Congress' disapproval of Bush's plans to deploy 21,500 additional troops to Iraq.

Bush last month announced his decision to deploy the additional troops. He said they are critical to a new effort to secure and hold violent neighborhoods in the Baghdad area and provide continuing training to Iraqi soldiers. The president said the plan holds the promise of creating stability in the nation.

Bush has indicated he will continue with the buildup even if the measure, which is nonbinding, passes in the Democratic-controlled House, as expected.

REGULA, SPACE TO WEIGH IN

Rep. Ralph Regula, R-Bethlehem Township, the only Republican lawmaker from the area, plans to lay out his views on the resolution in a speech on the House floor at about 4 p.m. today. As of Wednesday night, he was mum on whether he would vote with most Republicans to oppose the resolution or join Democrats in supporting it.

Regula has backed Bush's Iraq policy in the past, but in recent weeks he has stressed the need for Iraqis to take more responsibility for their future.

Rep. Zack Space, D-Dover, also plans to speak on the House floor late this afternoon. He and other area Democrats, including Reps. Charlie A. Wilson Jr. of St. Clairsville and Betty Sutton of Copley, oppose the troop increase.

Sutton told a congressional committee earlier this week that she opposes the buildup because the "situation ... does not have a military solution."

"Unity in Iraq has to be determined by the people who live there, and the evidence is overwhelming that what our troops are being asked to fix is a sectarian civil war," she said.

Ryan, during a press conference with other young Democratic lawmakers from the "30 Something Working Group," said Wednesday that past "escalations" of American troops in Iraq have led to more American deaths.

"We disagree with what the president wants to do ... because we already tried it, and it doesn't work," he said.

Ryan and other Democrats are charging that the additional troops being sent to Iraq lack sufficient training, equipment and protection.

CONGRESSIONAL LEADERS

In a letter to Bush Wednesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said the Army lacks "thousands of advanced armor kits for Humvees that could protect against roadside bombs."

Citing unspecified "news reports," they also claimed there is a lack of trucks, jamming devices, radios and other gear.

National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe disputed the assertions, saying American troops would be "fully equipped and ready when they go into combat in Iraq."

"I think the commanders on the ground are going to have everything they need for their troops," he said.

WHAT COULD HAPPEN?

Recent statements from Republican and Democratic leaders indicate Democrats might try to limit funding for the surge when they consider an administration request for an additional $100 billion for the war later this year.

Ryan insisted he would not vote to cut off funding for troops currently in Iraq.

But when asked if he would oppose funding to send additional troops, he said yes.

"I would be willing to say if there's troops here in America that have not left yet, I would say let's keep them here," he said.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., who appeared at the press conference with Ryan, was undecided about whether she would vote to cut off funding for the surge. But she said she was "leaning" toward Ryan's position.