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War efforts funded through July, analysis finds

Story Highlights

• Operations covered till July without more funding, nonpartisan study finds
• President has threatened veto of any funding bill with pullout deadline
• Administration has been warning of consequences if bill not enacted
• Democrats may feel more freedom to engage in veto fight
From Dana Bash
CNN congressional correspondent
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A new analysis of funding for U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan concludes the Army could continue to wage war through July without additional funding from Congress.

The analysis may bolster Democrats in their increasingly contentious veto showdown with President Bush.

In a report prepared for the Senate Budget Committee, the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service said the Pentagon has flexibility to transfer money from elsewhere for "urgent requirements" and could finance the war with current appropriations "through most of July 2007."

President Bush and Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have said the Pentagon needs Congress to approve additional war funding by April 15, or military operations will begin to be affected.

The House and Senate have passed supplementary appropriations bills for war operations, but the bills contain language setting out deadlines for withdrawing U.S. combat troops from Iraq.

Bush has vowed to veto any spending bill with a deadline, raising the possibility of a protracted dispute with Congress that could delay military funding. (Watch how Democrats are maneuvering to get bill passed Video)

In recent testimony to Congress, Pace said that if the Pentagon doesn't get $100 billion in war funding by April 15, the Army will have to curtail reserve and National Guard training, postpone quality-of-life initiatives such as repairing barracks, and stop repairing equipment.

And if the funding isn't in place by May 15, Pace said, deployments to Iraq could be delayed and troops already there would have to stay longer.

The congressional research report conceded that if additional funding is delayed, "the Army may very well decide that it must slow down its non-war-related operations before money would run out." However, the report said Congress has given the Pentagon sufficient flexibility "so that funds can be moved to meet more urgent requirements."

For Democrats, the report is ammunition against Bush's politically powerful argument that lawmakers' insistence on putting withdrawal deadlines in the war funding bill could hurt troops in the field.

Just how long it might take to resolve the dispute is unclear because, before the spending bill can even get to Bush's desk for a veto, House and Senate negotiators will have to work out major differences in their approaches to a troop withdrawal.

The Senate bill sets a goal of March 2008 for U.S. combat forces to leave Iraq, but the date is nonbinding. However, the House went further and imposed a binding deadline of September 2008.

In both chambers, the bills passed by bare majorities, so Democratic leaders face the difficult task of coming up with a compromise that keeps enough lawmakers on board to get through Congress.

While Bush has insisted the American people will hold Democrats responsible if troops suffer because of the political impasse, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is placing the blame for the time crunch squarely on the president's shoulders.

"Whose fault is that? We have waited for months and months and months to get this appropriations bill," Reid said.



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