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Webb Wants to Use Emergency Spending Bill to Block Military Action Against Iran

Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) today proposed using an emergency spending bill to block funding for any military action against Iran unless Congress authorizes it.

Webb, a freshman on the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees, wants his language added to the fiscal 2007 supplemental war spending bill that lawmakers are expected to take up later this month. He also introduced the measure as a stand-alone Senate bill.

Webb’s move is the latest attempt by Democrats to express their dissatisfaction with Bush administration foreign policy.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev,) is broadly supportive of his plan to require Congressional authorization for strikes against Iraq, Webb told reporters. Nonetheless, the prospects for the bill passing are far from certain. The Senate has declined to back similar Democratic proposals to cut funds for the Iraq War, or to even pass a nonbinding resolution opposing the current Iraq strategy.

Office of Management and Budget spokesman Sean Kevelighan said the Bush administration would not take a position on the statement of one Senator. The administration has said in the past that “it’s important not to micromanage the war effort,” Kevelighan said.

In recent weeks, the Bush administration has sharply criticized Iraq for suspected work on developing nuclear weapons and backing insurgents who are fighting U.S personnel, inside Iraq.

In a floor speech, Webb emphasized that blocking funding would not halt any current military operations inside Iraq but would prohibit President Bush from beginning new operations against Iran.

“This is a different situation than Iraq, where there are troops on the ground,” Webb, a former Navy secretary, told reporters on Monday.

The legislation does allow the president to take action against Iraq without consulting Congress if an attack comes from Iran, if an attack from Iran is imminent, if an enemy retreats to Iran or in matters relating to intelligence-gathering.

But for all other military actions involving Iran, the president would have 24 hours after choosing action against Iran to report on the decision and the reasoning behind it to the House and Senate Armed Services, Intelligence and Foreign Relations committees.

Rep. Walter Jones Jr. (R-N.C.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee who has been an outspoken GOP critic of the Iraq, also has introduced a similar measure in the House.

The House proposal does not mention funding, focusing instead on the president’s authority to attack Iran, which is not covered by his past Congressional authority to launch strikes against Iraq, according to a Jones spokeswoman.

Neither the House or the Senate are likely to begin work on a $100 billion supplemental bill for fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan until at least next week.

A spokesman for Senate Appropriations Chairman Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) said appropriators were likely to mark up the bill the week of March 20 and then it would head to the Senate floor the following week, according to

House appropriators have yet to say when they will mark up the bill. However, appropriations bills traditionally originate in the House, making it likely House lawmakers will take up the bill within the next two weeks.