Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Kennedy Says Hill Must Act; May Spark Constitutional Debate

09 Jan 2007 A first wave of additional U.S. troops will go into Iraq before the end of the month under President [sic] Bush's new 'plan,' a senior defense official said Tuesday. Up to 20,000 troops will be put on alert and be prepared to deploy under the president's plan, but the increase in forces on the ground will be gradual, said the official, who requested anonymity because the plans have not yet been announced.
Constitutional crisis?
The move seemed destined to touch off constitutional debate about the role of Congress and whether it can stop specific orders by the President -- who is the commander in chief of the U.S. armed forces -- once it has authorized the use of force.
"There can be no doubt that the Constitution gives Congress the authority to decide whether to fund military action, and Congress can demand a justification from the president for such action before it appropriates the funds to carry it out," Kennedy said. Congress in October 2002 passed a resolution authorizing the Iraq war. Since then the war has taken the lives of over 3,000 members of the U.S. military, and Democrats rode the growing public unhappiness with the conflict to majorities in both houses of Congress in November.
Possible restrictions on money
Kennedy said Bush's speech on Wednesday must serve as "the beginning, not the end of of a new national discussion of our policy in Iraq." It was not immediately clear whether or when Kennedy's proposal could face a vote.
Some Democrats including House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada have urged Bush to soon begin bringing U.S. troops home. But others, such as incoming Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph Biden of Delaware, have expressed doubt that Congress can actually block an increase in troops. Biden, a Democrat, says he will introduce a resolution that would express the Senate's sense of disapproval of any White House moves to "escalate" the war.
Kennedy, who opposed the war from the beginning, said he opposed cutting funding for troops that were already in Iraq. But he said the mission in Iraq had changed so markedly from the one authorized by Congress that Bush should not be allowed to step up the conflict by sending additional troops, without a new authorization from Congress.
Kennedy called Iraq a "quagmire" and drew repeated comparisons to Vietnam, a tactic that Democrats are likely to repeat in the coming months. "In Vietnam, the White House grew increasingly obsessed with victory, and increasingly divorced from the will of the people and any rational policy. The Department of Defense kept assuring us that each new escalation in Vietnam would be the last. Instead, each one led only to the next. There was no military solution to that war," Kennedy said. "Echoes of that disaster are all around us today. Iraq is George Bush's Vietnam."

"My bill will say that no additional troops can be sent and no additional dollars can be spent on such an escalation, unless and until Congress approves the President's plan," he said.
Another possibility would be for Congress to attach restrictions to some $100 billion for the war that Bush is expected to request soon, said House Democratic Leader Steny Hoyer. "That's a possibility for us. There has been some discussion about that," Hoyer of Maryland told reporters.
Kennedy's Speech
Kennedy Calls Iraq Bush's 'Vietnam'
Kennedy: Congress Must Act to Stop Troop Rise
Blair refuses to match US troop 'surge' in Iraq
Britain TV puts Blair on trial

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