More Obstruction from Congress on Iraq Funding

Here come the managers of Congress once again trying to control our military and reign in George Bush on the war in Iraq. Instead of simply approving or even disapproving a funding bill for the military’s activities in Iraq and Afghanistan, Congress attempts to put restraints and controls on the funding along with loading these bills with a lot of excess spending on totally unrelated projects. They have already failed with one bill being vetoed by the President just over a week ago concerning a timetable for troop withdrawal from Iraq. Now they threaten to bring another bill; this time tying length of war restrictions to the budgetary item. Essentially it is the same type of bill as the one on which they were just defeated. Instead of a timetable for troop withdrawal, this bill says they’ll agree to fund the war until July and then decide if they’ll release more funds at that time. This would have the effect of halving the requested budget and leaving the second half funding very much in doubt.

“In essence the bill asks me to run the Department of Defense like a skiff and I’m trying to drive the biggest supertanker in the world," Gates told senators Wednesday. "We just don’t have the agility to be able to manage a two-month appropriation very well."

Gates said that proposals for a short-term funding bill would be very disruptive and "have a huge impact" on many contracts to repair and replace equipment. Going further he said if Congress votes in July to shut-off war funding, "I would have to shut down significant elements of the Department of Defense in August and September because I wouldn’t have the money to pay salaries."

The White House has already indicated that they will veto any new bill of this punitive type. “There are restrictions on funding and there are also some of the spending items that were mentioned in the first veto message that are still in the bill," White House spokesman Tony Snow said.

What is happening here is simply that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) are determined to play politics with crucial military funding for our troops in Iraq. There should be no timetable, no cut-off dates and no restrictions of any kind on these simple supplemental budget requests. Congress voted for the war; they should not now try to cut it off by restricting the funding. Further they should know by now that they do not have the votes to over-ride Presidential vetoes which surely will follow on any of the bills they now propose as “compromises” on Bush’s Iraq strategy.

So what is the point of these unrealistic restrictions? The only point can be to frustrate the President’s agenda. There is a real danger in legislating away our military efforts in Iraq by undermining the budgeting process. Then, truly the 3,000 plus American service deaths would have been for nothing. We are trying to help put a democracy in place in a country that has voted for it. It is a very difficult task, especially because of the insurgents. We have not failed in Iraq and given enough time we can succeed in seeing a democratic nation operating within Iraq’s borders and a nation that will be helpful in keeping peace in the region.

"With this latest veto threat, the president has once again chosen confrontation over cooperation," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. That would seem to be a lot of nonsense, especially because as of now the bill may well clear the House, but not the Senate, and thus it would never reach Bush’s desk in the first place causing no confrontation. Senators are a bit more reluctant to simply cut troop funding while our combat units are in the active theater.

When this effort is thrown on the junk pile of ideas where it belongs, the next round in the struggle for control of Iraq will play out once again as much on Capitol Hill as in the Mideast. No doubt at the center of the next military spending bill will be some kind of language demanding that Iraq do more, take more control, meet some benchmarks. It will probably behoove the Bush Administration to go along with some of that kind of language if it will succeed in getting the budget supplemental of around $125 billion released. The truth is that it will be very hard to enforce any such benchmarks or to decide who can judge degrees of improvements in Iraq. In the meantime, though we will have funded the troops so that we at least can have a chance of seeing the results of Bush’s build-up policy, to say nothing of making sure that our people have what they need to do the job they are assigned.