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Democrats Eye Iraq Spending ‘CR’

Anticipating a veto of a $120 billion-plus war supplemental next week, Democrats already are laying the groundwork for a series of short-term spending bills that would force President Bush and his fellow Republicans to keep coming back for more money.

“It’s basically a [continuing resolution],” Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), a member of the Appropriations Committee and a member of the Out of Iraq Caucus, said Thursday. “Thirty days [worth of funding] would really keep their feet to the fire but I think the more responsible thing to do is 60 days.”

Moran said that many of the add-ons would still be tacked on to the short-term spending bill, such as funding for veterans’ and military health care.

“I know we’re going to keep that no matter what,” he said.

Administration officials have argued for a clean, long-term bill. Rob Portman, director of the Office of Management and Budget, told reporters recently that he was concerned that a short-term spending bill would hurt the Department of Defense’s ability to plan.

House Democrats have already conceded that they will have to drop their proposed requirements for a date certain for bringing troops home and requirements for troop readiness standards in conference with the Senate, Moran said.

“The majority sentiment is not to have an absolute firm deadline for withdrawal,” Moran said.

Moran said instead the bill would have “suggestions” about drawing down troops, raising questions as to why Bush would veto it.

“Why veto if it’s advisory?” Moran asked.

The House bill has a firm date of withdrawal by the end of August 2008, while the Senate has a nonbinding goal for withdrawal of March 2008. Bush has vowed to veto either bill, both over the calls for ending the war and because of the more than $20 billion added to the bills, including unrelated domestic spending.

The spending levels are not expected to change much in the compromise bill.

Moran added that while some freshman lawmakers who have been fiercely opposed to the war may now vote against it, conservative Democrats who voted against the bill initially should now vote for it.

“Blue Dogs have no excuse not to vote for the conference report the way it’s shaping up,” Moran said.

Moran lamented the lack of a firm withdrawal date, but said leadership had done the best they could. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has sought to convince liberals that they need to support the conference report even with the weaker language given the inability to pass a firm deadline in the Senate.

Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) has declined to discuss his strategy for a post-veto supplemental bill, although Appropriations subcommittee on Defense Chairman John Murtha (D-Pa.) has acknowledged that short-term bills are under consideration.

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