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US Lawmakers Argue Over Iraq Funding Action


Republicans and Democrats in Congress are looking at ways to find a compromise that will provide continued funding for the war in Iraq. President Bush vetoed an earlier $124-billion spending measure because it contained a Democratic-backed timeline for withdrawing U.S. troops. VOA's Dan Robinson reports from Capitol Hill.

The debate is focused on President Bush's military strategy and the the desire of Democratic lawmakers to begin pulling U.S. troops out of the country.

House Democrats confirm they intend to bring to the floor later this week a bill to provide about $30 billion for military operations through July, after which an assessment would be made of the president's military surge in Iraq.

If lawmakers then determine that sufficient progress is or is not being made under the plan being implemented by General David Petraeus, they could provide more than $50 billion in additional funds, or begin legislative steps to cut off funding altogether.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says Democratic leaders are in the process of obtaining support from their members for the approach. "We have to bring members together around a position that we can then discuss with the White House on that, and hopefully that will happen this week," she said.

Republicans reject this approach, insisting General Petraeus should be given all of the resources he needs until September, when he is to provide a formal report to Congress. "The idea that has been floated in the last few days, of not giving the Petraeus plan a chance to work, of having a second vote in July, seems to me to be the ultimate gift to a terrorist effort, the ultimate gift to an insurgent effort," said Congressman Roy Blunt, the Republican House minority whip.

Senate Republicans say they will not support such a method, with minority leader Mitch McConnell urging approval of the full amount. "A four month period [until September] is a pretty short period in any event. To further divide that in half and bring the uncertainty that will be the result of that to the whole funding process would be highly confusing and disruptive," he said.

In the House, minority Republican leader John Boehner has indicated that the president may see weakening support by September if progress is not being made.

Expanding on that, Congressman Blunt said that while Republicans remain united at present on the need for full funding, if the Petraeus plan is not yielding results by September nobody would expect the U.S. to pursue a plan that isn't working.

White House spokesman Tony Snow had this reaction to the Democrat's plan to divide the funding measure. "It is kind of a stop and start measure, it denies commanders and forces the kind of predictability they need to be able to plan effectively," he said.

Back on Capitol Hill Senate Republican Arlen Specter expressed concern not only about efforts to come up with a bipartisan compromise on the supplemental war funding measure, but the task lawmakers face in forging agreement on regular defense spending legislation for 2008. "For certain by September when we face the full $500 billion appropriations bill, there is a very difficult time ahead unless we can see light at the end of the tunnel," he said.

Last week, two Republican senators and one Senate Democrat called for a public hearing in September at which General Petraeus would provide a promised update on the situation in Iraq.

Senators John Warner, Susan Collins, and Ben Nelson say a hearing would enable lawmakers to determine if President Bush's military strategy in Iraq should be continued, altered, or redefined.

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