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House Dems dispute White House 'stories' about war funding bill

  • Story Highlights
  • Democratic leaders blame Republicans for blocking legislation
  • Murtha calls Army report of furloughs, base-closings a "political document"
  • GOP leader: Fund troops without further delay, stop "grandstanding"
  • Dem leaders said last week issue probably won't come up again till next year
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From Deirdre Walsh and Ted Barrett
CNN
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Two House Democratic leaders aggressively pushed back Tuesday at the Bush administration's claims the Pentagon will run out of money soon because Congress failed to pass a war funding bill before its Thanksgiving recess.

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Reps. David Obey, left, and John Murtha say they reject White House "stories" on the Iraq war funding bill.

"The Bush administration is promoting a lot of stories about what would happen if Congress doesn't give it the money," House Appropriations Chairman David Obey of Wisconsin said at a press conference on Capitol Hill.

Obey pointed the finger at Senate Republicans, saying they blocked the Senate from passing a House bill that provided $50 billion with some conditions, including a requirement that Bush begin bringing U.S. troops home within 30 days.

The vote on the bill was 53-45, seven votes short of the necessary 60 to bring it to a final vote. A rival Republican measure that would have provided $70 billion in funding with no restrictions was 15 votes shy of the required 60.

"If the president wants that $50 billion released, all he has to do is call the Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and ask him to stop blocking it," Obey said.

Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania, chairman of the Defense Appropriations subcommittee, referred to a report from the U.S. Army Budget Office detailing contingency plans to shut down military bases and furlough up to 150,000 civilian employees as a "political document."

McConnell replied in a written statement: "The Senate overwhelmingly passed two resolutions this year rejecting any action that would undermine our troops in the field, and we owe it to our troops to protect them by providing the funding they need without further delay or grandstanding.

"Their families, here at home, deserve to know their loved ones are provided for by the time Congress leaves for Christmas."

Obey said the military has plenty of funds to get through February.

Murtha said the $460 billion in the Defense bill the president signed last week could pay for the military's needs.

He added that "it's almost like a Rumsfeld-like prediction here. ... I thought we'd gotten rid of Secretary Rumsfeld." Donald Rumsfeld resigned as secretary of defense about a year ago.

Murtha challenged information coming from military leaders, saying, "Because the Pentagon says it, you believe it? You believe what the Pentagon says? ... All the things that they've told us? Go back and look: mission accomplished; al Qaeda connection; weapons of mass destruction. On and on and on and you believe the Pentagon?"

Obey stood firm on his pledge to provide more money to Bush only if he agrees to a timetable to begin redeploying troops from Iraq and bring most U.S. troops home by the end of 2008.

"We've already provided the money that he has asked for," he said. "As far as I'm concerned the ball is in his court."

In a statement, House Republican Leader John Boehner of Ohio said Congress should send the president a war funding bill and funds for veterans, "free of gimmicks, free of arbitrary timelines, and free of billions in unrelated, wasteful pork" by Christmas.

"Timetables for withdrawal, efforts to hamstring our generals, and attempts to cut off funding for our troops failed when Congress tried them earlier this year, and they will fail again," Boehner said. "By undermining our troops' progress in this way, Congress risks having al Qaeda stand back up. For the sake of generations to come, this is an irresponsible decision Congress simply cannot afford to make."

Democratic leadership in the House and the Senate said if last week's efforts failed, they wouldn't bring up the issue again until next year. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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