Pulling on the power of the purse strings

John Dimsdale Feb 23, 2007
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Pulling on the power of the purse strings

John Dimsdale Feb 23, 2007
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KAI RYSSDAL: Washington’s been quiet this week with the congressional recess. But Democrats are working behind closed doors on ways to stop the war in Iraq. In the Senate they’re drafting a repeal of the 2002 authorization to go to war in the first place. On the House side there are some questions about a strategy of trying to cut off the money. Marketplace’s John Dimsdale has more.


JOHN DIMSDALE: The Pentagon needs congressional approval of $100 billion to continue fighting the war beyond April. And American University presidential scholar James Thurber says when it comes to the power of the purse, the president has to take notice.

JAMES THURBER: Well, he can’t ignore appropriations. If in an appropriation bill they say he may not do a particular thing, then it’s unconstitutional.

One attempt to stop the surge comes from the powerful chairman of the House Defense Appropriations Committee, John Murtha of Pennsylvania. He would link funding to readiness requirements. Only fully equipped and trained troops could go to Iraq. But that poses a risk to soldiers already there, says the Brookings Institution’s Michael O’Hanlon.

MICHAEL O’HANLON: Congressman Murtha is going to deprive the commanders in the field and the troops who are already in Iraq of the kind of reinforcements that might make their lives easier and their mission more successful.

Several moderate Democrats have also criticized Congressman Murtha’s idea. And at the White House, presidential spokesman Tony Fratto says the president can’t figure out what the Democrats want.

TONY FRATTO: As I look and see reports from what’s coming from the Democrats with respect to Iraq is, you know, really a shifting landscape of ideas, all with the intention of keeping our troops from getting — what we feel — from getting what they need to carry out their mission.

Some Democrats recommend waiting to confront the president until this fall, when the budget for 2008 must be passed. By that time, they figure the troop surge will have failed to reduce the violence in Iraq.

In Washington, I’m John Dimsdale for Marketplace.

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