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Congress Can't Fund the Troops

11:27 AM, May 29, 2008 • By BRIAN FAUGHNAN
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After ending 2007 with abysmal approval ratings, Congressional leaders seemed to recognize that protracted fights over Iraq funding bills were damaging their credibility. They acknowledged that it made little sense to split their conference, only to capitulate to the president at the last minute. It seemed like Democrats simply wanted the Iraq issue to go away. Along those lines, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer made clear a few weeks ago that Democrats would no longer try to play games with Iraq funds:

"Clearly we're at war, or it's a different kind of war, but we have, as you know what my position has been, we have men and women that we have asked and sent in harm's way," he said. "And obviously we have a responsibility to address that. The President says that they need additional sums to fund that effort. And my position, as you know, is until such time as we take them out and have a policy of redeployment we need to support them while they're there."

Either Hoyer doesn't speak for his party, or he can't marshal the votes he needs to deliver. That became clear yesterday, when the Pentagon requested authority to shift money among defense accounts to ensure that our troops in the field don't have their funds cut off due to Congressional inaction:

The Pentagon has asked Congress for the authorization to borrow and transfer $9.7 billion from various accounts to pay for war operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The so-called reprogramming request is necessary because a new war supplemental funding bill is still pending in Congress, the Department of Defense stated...

The Army will run out of money to pay its soldiers, including those serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, after June 15, Gates told the Senate defense appropriations subcommittee last week.

Around July 5, all services starting with the Army will run out of operations and maintenance funds.

Democratic leaders have tried to move legislation to fund the ongoing war, but their domestic spending has alienated fiscal conservatives without buying the votes of anti-war liberals. Assuming Democrats retain control of the Congress in 2009, the calculus won't suddenly change: leaders will still need to cobble together a majority.

But if Barack Obama is elected president, there's no way that Congressional leaders will suddenly tack right -- and force on the president spending bills that require a more aggressive stance in Iraq and the war on terror. Rather, the majority position will be dictated by the anti-war liberals, who regard the 'War on Terror' as a police action, at best. Will President Obama stand up to them?