Senate won't sever Iraq funding - the chairman of the US’s senate armed services committee

Other News Materials 9 April 2007 11:37 (UTC +04:00)

( LatWp ) - The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., said Sunday that the Senate would not cut off funding for the Iraq war but would continue to press President Bush to push Iraqi leaders to reach a settlement to end the violence.

Appearing on ABC's ``This Week,'' Levin disagreed with the position voiced last week by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid D-Nev., who said last Monday that he would co-sponsor legislation to cut off almost all money for the war in Iraq by next March.

``Well, we're not going to vote to cut funding, period,'' Levin said. ``Even Harry Reid acknowledged that that's not going to happen.''

Levin said he believes that a ``majority'' of Democrats and most of the Republicans will ``vote for a bill that funds the troops, period.

''We shouldn't cut off funding for the troops, but what we should do, and we're going to do, is continue to press this president to put some pressure on the Iraqi leaders to reach a political settlement,`` he said.

''That is what he is not doing. He said that he would insist that they meet their own benchmarks. He said that in January. He has not done that.``

Last month, the Senate and the House each voted separately to approve spending bills that would give the Bush administration about $103 billion in new funding for the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan but also set timelines for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq.

The Senate bill sets a nonbinding target of withdrawing all combat troops by March 31, 2008, while the House bill sets a deadline of Aug. 31, 2008, for complete withdrawal. Democratic leaders in both chambers are negotiating a compromise version to send the president.

In his radio address Saturday, Bush reiterated his threat to veto any spending bill that includes timelines. With slim majorities in both houses of Congress, the Democrats stand little chance of overriding the veto. On Sunday, Levin indicated that once the bill is vetoed, legislators might respond by removing the requirement that troop withdrawals begin within 120 days.

''We're not going to cut off funding for the troops,`` he repeated.

Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said of the standoff that ''there have not been sufficient efforts at discussions between the Congress and White House to try to work it out.

``We cannot leave the troops unfunded in the field. That just can't be done. And Congress is not in a position to micromanage the war,'' Specter said on CNN's ``Late Edition.'' ``But we do not have any good alternative. Right now, you can't see the end of the tunnel, let alone a light at the end of the tunnel.

''We can't stay there forever, but we do have some signs of improvement,`` he said. ''I'm not prepared to withdraw funding at this time. But my patience, like many others', is growing very thin.``

Sen. John Kyl, R-Ariz., speaking on ABC, said that he thought that withholding funds from the troops was a bad idea and that he thought the Iraqis were beginning to make progress on meeting the benchmarks .

''So if you listen to those who have been over there and come back with reports that there is progress being made, why would you want to pull the rug out from the troops just as that progress has begun?`` Kyl said.