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Congressional Oversight of Iraq Policy Increases


Democrats in the U.S. Congress have taken steps opposing President Bush's policies in Iraq, but have stopped short of binding legislation that would cut funding for the war. Nonetheless, lawmakers are being accused of micromanaging the war. VOA's Peter Fedynsky has this report.

House Democrats this month passed a non-binding resolution opposing President Bush's decision to send more than 21,000 additional troops to Iraq. Republicans blocked a similar resolution in the Senate. But leading Democrats in both houses have suggested other anti-war measures, including a possible attempt to amend the president's authority to wage war in Iraq.

Senator Trent Lott, the Senate minority party whip, says tactics used by the Democrats are, as he puts it, "troublesome." "This is just part of the slow-bleed strategy; non-binding resolution here, hearings there, but eventually leading up to a vote that would cut off the funds," said the senator.

Most Democrats say they are not prepared to cut funding. But Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards, the party's 2004 vice-presidential nominee, is calling for just such a policy.

He spoke on the CBS television network program, "Face the Nation." "I think the Congress should use its authority, its funding authority, to bring down the troop level, get initial an 40,000 to 50,000 out of Iraq, and continue to use that authority to redeploy troops out of Iraq over the next year or so."

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice recognizes that Congress has the constitutional right to oversee White House activities. However, she says lawmakers are threatening the president's constitutional role as commander in chief, which includes authority to execute policy and to consult with military commanders about their needs. "If you ever disrupt that chain, then you are going to have the worst of micromanagement of military affairs and it has always served us badly in the past."

White House spokesman Tony Snow says the president's troop increase must be given time to work. Democrats, however, say they are responding to what they say is an anti-war message, which voters made clear in November's general election.

Polls show that ongoing bloodshed in Iraq has disillusioned a majority of Americans about the prospects for victory in Iraq. In the latest violence, Iraqi Vice President Adel Abdel-Mahdi, a Shi’ite, was the target of an apparent assassination attempt on Monday. He was hospitalized with bruises from a bomb blast in the Public Works Ministry in Baghdad. Also hospitalized is Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, who was diagnosed with severe exhaustion and dehydration. Talabani has been engaged in political attempts to stem sectarian violence, which additional U.S. troops will also seek to control.

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