Friday, February 23, 2007

2002 War Authorization On The Table Again

Murtha's plan to require certification of individual Army units before sending them to the war zone is being abandoned by Democrats in favor of a repeal of the 2002 Congressional authorization to go to war in Iraq.

Senate Democratic leaders intend to unveil a plan next week to repeal the 2002 resolution authorizing the war in Iraq in favor of narrower authority that restricts the military's role and begins withdrawals of combat troops.

House Democrats have pulled back from efforts to link additional funding for the war to strict troop-readiness standards after the proposal came under withering fire from Republicans and from their party's own moderates. That strategy was championed by Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.) and endorsed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). ...

Biden and Levin are drafting language to present to their colleagues when the Senate reconvenes on Tuesday, following a week-long recess.

The new framework would set a goal for withdrawing combat brigades by March 31, 2008, the same timetable established by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group. Once the combat phase ends, troops would be restricted to assisting Iraqis with training, border security and counterterrorism. ...

Party leaders in the House are likely to present a proposal for binding legislation to the Democratic caucus next week, according to lawmakers in that chamber. But lawmakers and senior Democratic aides said Murtha's plan would have to be scaled back dramatically, after a week-long Republican assault.

Murtha, chairman of the Appropriations defense subcommittee and a leading critic of the war, had intended to fully fund Bush's $100 billion war request for the remainder of this fiscal year. But under his plan, those funds could be spent only to deploy combat troops deemed fully rested, trained and equipped.

After nearly four years of combat, most military units would not be able to meet those standards. Although the war would be fully funded, the policy would prevent some of the 21,500 additional combat troops from being deployed, and some troops already in Iraq would have to be sent home.

But that approach may be all but dead, according to several Democratic lawmakers. Murtha doomed his own plan in part by unveiling it on a left-wing Web site, inflaming party moderates. ...

Several Democratic aides say the Iraq funding bill, due for a vote the week of March 12, may contain some of Murtha's demands for more training and better equipment for combat troops. But the proposals that set the toughest requirements are likely to drop out, such as a demand that troops be trained on and deployed with the combat equipment they will use in Iraq.

More important, the legislation may include a waiver that the president or defense secretary could invoke to deploy troops who are not fully combat-ready, Democratic aides said. That way, the commander in chief's hands would not be tied.

But under such a bill the president would have to publicly acknowledge that he is deploying troops with less than a year's rest from combat, that he is extending combat tours of troops in Iraq, or that he is sending units into battle without full training in counterinsurgency or urban warfare, the aides said.

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