WASHINGTON - House Speaker Nancy Pelosi contended yesterday that President Bush was rushing new troops to Iraq and betting that Congress won't cut off funds once they are in battle. The White House called her assertion "poisonous."
In an exchange of harsh rhetoric that underscored the intensity of the political fight, Pelosi (D., Calif.) said the war should not be "an obligation of the American people in perpetuity."
"The president knows that because the troops are in harm's way, that we won't cut off the resources," she said on ABC's Good Morning America. "That's why he's moving so quickly to put them in harm's way."
When asked whether she thought Bush manipulated the deployments to avoid congressional action, Pelosi said she hoped he did not but thought "he could have told us about it sooner.. . . We found out about it as the troops were going in."
White House spokeswoman Dana Perino retorted that lawmakers were in a "sound-bite war" against Bush, counter to Democrats' promises of bipartisanship.
"Those particular comments were poisonous," Perino said. "I think questioning the president's motivations and suggesting that he, for some political reason, is rushing troops into harm's way, is not appropriate, it is not correct, and it is unfortunate because we do have troops in harm's way."
In a letter to Bush, Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) said they were eager to work "in a bipartisan fashion on the terrorism issue and in so doing strengthen the relationship between your administration and Congress."
Meanwhile, support was building around a resolution that would oppose Bush's plans for more troops to Iraq.
Senate Democrats, backed by Republicans Olympia J. Snowe of Maine and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, unveiled a nonbinding measure that states: "It is not in the national interest of the United States to deepen its military involvement in Iraq, particularly by escalating the United States military force presence in Iraq."
Reid said yesterday: "When we hold the up-or-down vote - and in the many votes that follow - our troops will get everything they need. It is the president who will find he no longer has a blank check."
Sen. Gordon H. Smith (R., Ore.) said he was wary of the term escalating in the resolution and was working with Sens. Susan Collins (R., Maine) and Ben Nelson (D., Neb.) on a "constructive, nonpartisan resolution that expresses the opposition of the Senate to the surge."
Collins and Nelson, alongside Sen. John W. Warner (R., Va.), were expected to announce the details of that resolution Monday.
Pelosi's criticism yesterday came as former Rep. Lee Hamilton (D., Ind.), cochair of the Iraq Study Group, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that Bush's plan to deploy 21,500 more troops to secure Baghdad and Anbar province could delay progress in training Iraqi security forces.
The Iraq Study Group recommended removing U.S. combat troops by early next year, and changing the U.S. mission from security to training and logistical support of Iraqi troops.
If a focus remains on security, "you delay the date of completion of the training mission," Hamilton said. "You delay the date of handing responsibility to the Iraqis. You delay the date of departure of U.S. troops."
in Congress lobbed
a warning shot at the White House yesterday
not to attack Iran without approval from lawmakers.
"The president does not have the authority to launch military action
in Iran without first
seeking congressional authorization," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) told the National Press Club in Washington, where he spoke yesterday along with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.).
The administration has accused Iran of meddling in Iraqi affairs and contributing technology and bomb-making materials for insurgents to use against U.S. and Iraqi security forces. While top administration officials have said they have no plans to attack Iran, they have declined to rule that out.
- Associated Press