Despite Rhetoric, Dems Poised To Give Bush A Blank Check For Iraq

From Roll Call:

Despite their rhetoric about not wanting to hand President Bush another "blank check" for the Iraq War, Democrats appear poised to give him exactly that -- enough cash to keep the war going full steam for as long as six months, no strings attached.

Democratic leaders continue to fear GOP attacks that cutting off or slowing funds would hurt the troops, despite anger among the Democratic base over the party's failure to use Congress' power of the purse to end the war.

And while House Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) have said they have no intention of bringing up Bush's almost $200 billion supplemental war funding proposal this year without a timeline for withdrawal, Democrats are quietly preparing to give the president enough spending flexibility to keep the war going anyway.

After Republicans repeatedly rebuffed Democratic attempts to adopt war restrictions in September following Army Gen. David Petraeus' testimony to Congress, Democrats began approving billions in extra funding, starting with the first stopgap spending resolution. Next up will be the regular Defense spending bill, expected to go to conference committee Tuesday. Although the bill is not expected to include funding specifically targeted to Iraq, Democrats plan to allow much of the funding to be diverted from regular Defense accounts to the war. Democratic Defense appropriators also are separately eyeing adding tens of billions in war funds, either in a small separate supplemental or attached to the next must-pass stopgap continuing resolution. They had sought to include $50 billion or more in such supplemental funding in the Defense bill itself, but leadership overrode that idea after the party's most ardent war foes complained.

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