Welch will oppose war funding unless it has a timetable

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(Host) Congressman Peter Welch says the time has come for Congress to challenge President Bush over the future funding of the Iraq war.

Welch says he’ll oppose all funding requests unless they include a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) Earlier this month, the U.S. House voted for legislation that provides an additional 50 billion dollars for the Iraqi war – the bill also included a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

A group of Republican senators blocked consideration of the bill in the Senate – it’s a move that has temporarily halted funding for the war.

Welch says Congressional Democrats should take a firm stand on this issue and use what he calls "the power of the purse":

(Welch)"The President won’t budge whatsoever, so basically he’s saying that it’s his way or the highway. He wants blank check authority, and if that’s the choice I’m not willing to give him that and I would not support any continuation of blank check funding for President Bush."

Welch says it’s a mistake for Democrats to vote for continuing resolutions to partially fund the war in the future. This technique has been used several times in the past when the President and Congress were stalemated over the funding question:

(Welch) "It’s whether we’re going to capitulate constantly to a President who pursues a policy that is open ended and is asking our troops and military and taxpayers to be shouldering the burden of a civil war in Iraq and I won’t support that."

Since Congress hasn’t voted for additional funding, the Pentagon says it’s shifting money from other programs to help pay for the Iraq War.

Pentagon officials say they have enough money to last until the middle of February. If Congress hasn’t passed a new funding bill by that time, Administration officials say they’ll have to lay off some of the Pentagon’s civilian workers.

Welch says he’s not moved by the Pentagon’s threats:

(Welch)"In fact I voted against the conference committee report on the Defense Authorization bill because there was language in there that made it clear that that was going to be a back door way of continuing the funding for the war. No one wants to do this because obviously we support our troops. But what the president is doing in my view is holding that argument and the troops hostage to his unwillingness to make any adjustment in his policy."

It’s not clear if Congress will try to pass a new Iraq funding bill by the end of the year.

For VPR News I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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