Democratic House leadership drew a line in the sand over Iraq War funding today, setting the tone for a messaging battle that will likely play out over the Thanksgiving break.
Speaking in front of a press gaggle, Reps. David Obey, D-WI, and Jack Murtha, D-PA, reasserted that there was enough money to fund the war through February, and that if the President wanted the additional $50 billion passed by the House of Representatives, he merely had to tell Republican leadership -- which filibustered the measure in the Senate -- to change its stance.
"Let me repeat," said Obey, "the money has already been provided by the House of Representatives. If the president wants that $50 billion released, all he has to do is to call the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, and ask him to stop blocking it. That phone number is (202) 224-2541, in case anybody's interested."
Prior to House Democrats passing the $50 billion appropriations, President Bush had called on Congress to fund the entirety of his $196 billion war supplemental request. The President has used the difference in dollar figures as well as the impasse in the Senate to raise concerns that the troops in Iraq are going unfunded and other foreign policy missions were being squeezed. Obey attacked that notion as well.
"The Bush Administration is promoting a lot of stories over the past week about nasty actions in the Pentagon that will have to be taken if Congress doesn't provide a bridge fund for the Iraqi war," said the Wisconsin Democrat. "Like so many other things in this town, those stories have things backwards."
As reported by the Huffington Post, the Democrat war supplement proposal is the party's most aggressive funding measure since taking over Congress. In addition to insisting on a full withdrawal plan the bill would also require that troops be fully trained and equipped before being sent into the field and that the government abide by the Army Field Manual with respect to prohibiting torture.
Reflecting the frustration with the Republican Party's obstruction of the measure, Obey declared at today's conference that: "I would be happy to provide them with the entire $200 billion that they've requested for the remainder of the year -- of next year, I should say -- if the administration accepted these modest and reasonable conditions."
Despite the tough rhetoric, few people inside or out of government anticipate that the Democrat's bridge fund will become law. The impasse between the two parties remains relatively wide and President Bush's veto looms in the distance. As such, much of the battles to be waged over the upcoming vacation weekend will likely focus on messaging, with the Democrats framing the war as a disastrous policy and unevenly burdensome.
"This week around our Thanksgiving tables there'll be two families," said Rep. Murtha. "One who say they support the troops -- and they do -- but they have sacrificed very little. They haven't had their taxes raised. They haven't been drafted, and they don't really participate in the war. The other are military families who have husbands and wives, sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters in the war theater. It's them who shoulder the burden of the president's Iraq policy. America owes them our thanks on this Thanksgiving weekend."