Analysis: Next Iraq Battle: Congress v. Bush
Council on Foreign Relations
January 12, 2007
Prepared by: Robert McMahon
Congressional Democrats regard President Bush’s moves to bolster forces in Iraq as an affront to the bipartisan Iraq Study Group’s recommendations, the advice of some top generals, and their own electoral sweep last November. With a number of Republicans also critical of the plan, Bush may be risking the biggest wartime clash (NYT) between two branches of government in a generation . Lawmakers from both parties blasted the policy change in hearings with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on the morning after Bush’s speech.
But divisions within both parties and between the two legislative chambers make it clear Congress has not settled on its role from this point on. Despite controlling both houses of Congress, most talk among Democratic leaders has been about holding a nonbinding resolution expressing disfavor with Bush’s decision to boost troop numbers by 21,500. Going a step further, Senator Edward Kennedy, (D-MA), introduced a bill calling for a vote to authorize spending for Bush’s new troop deployments, estimated to cost more than $5 billion. But many Democratic Party leaders have reacted cautiously, scorning the president’s plan but reiterating their support for the troops in the field. Congress is constitutionally vested with the authority to fund military action and has certainly exercised this power in the past, says the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service.
Slate’s Emily Bazelon says Congress could draw on an example from June 1973 when it passed a measure threatening to cut off combat spending if President Richard M. Nixon did not end the fighting in Cambodia and Vietnam by mid-August.
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