Iraq funding faces uphill battle with Murtha

Rep. John Murtha

KAI RYSSDAL: The president wants another $100 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan. That much we knew last week. We also knew he wasn't going to get it without the Executive Branch spending some quality time with Congress. Top Army officers made the trek up to Capitol Hill today to answer questions from one of the Administration's most powerful critics. Nancy Marshall Genzer has the story from Washington.


NANCY MARSHALL GENZER: Congressman John Murtha is working on language that would only fund the buildup in Iraq, if the troops met "readiness" standards on training and equipment. That means the Pennsylvania Democrat could very well block the Iraq troop build-up, given equipment shortages and the precious little training time the military's been facing.

During today's hearing of a defense subcommittee that Murtha chairs, he pressed Army Chief of Staff General Peter Schoomaker on whether the 21,000 extra troops planned for Iraq are ready.
JOHN MURTHA: I'm sure you'd like to send 21,000 tomorrow. But wouldn't you agree we can't send 21,000 tomorrow, general?

PETER SCHOOMAKER: Sir, we're surging and doing it on the schedule that was asked for. It is a challenge to do it — no question about it.

This is Murtha's way of taking a stand. Even if he doesn't stop the build-up, he says, at least the forces would be ready.

But Daniel Goure of the Lexington Institute says the Pentagon could shift money around to pay for the additional troops without Congress' blessing.

DANIEL GOURE: One of the ways you could treat it would be by reducing the presence of support units in Iraq. Take the money you save, and put it toward combat brigades.

But that would lead to a showdown with Congress. Denis McDonough of the Center for American Progress says the Pentagon really doesn't want to bite the hand that feeds it.

DENIS MCDONOUGH: Congress is going to be enacting funding requirements for this war and for other national defense operations for years to come.

The Secretary of Defense is scheduled to appear before Murtha's subcommittee later this month.

In Washington, I'm Nancy Marshall Genzer for Marketplace.

About the author

Nancy Marshall-Genzer is a senior reporter for Marketplace based in Washington, D.C. covering daily news.

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