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Pelosi Vows to Push Iraq Bills

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) vowed late last week that the House will aggressively pursue legislation related to the Iraq War, regardless of whether such bills stand a chance in the Senate. However, the three Iraq War bills on tap this week in the House are designed to garner bipartisan support and none would force the Bush administration to pull troops out of combat.

“We will appeal to the American people from the House of Representatives in a way that will be less dependent on what is legislatively possible in the United States Senate,” Pelosi said at a Friday press conference.

Pelosi criticized the Senate’s recent failure to cut off debate on a measure that would require military personnel receive time at home equal to that of their deployment, effectively killing the measure. The House approved a similar bill in early August.

“We can’t go as slow as that ship,” Pelosi later added.

One of the bills to be considered this week would compel the Bush administration to develop a plan for troop withdrawal.

That legislation, sponsored by Reps. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii) and John Tanner (D-Tenn.), would require President Bush and senior officials to submit a comprehensive redeployment strategy within 60 days.

The bill, expected to come to the floor on Tuesday under suspension, has the support of moderate lawmakers and also could draw strong Republican support. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said last week GOP leadership would not oppose the measure, which the Armed Services Committee approved by an overwhelming 55-2 vote.

Members of the Democrats’ liberal wing have criticized the Abercrombie-Tanner proposal as toothless, however, and those lawmakers likely will vote against the bill.

In addition, the House will vote on legislation Wednesday from Rep. David Price (D-N.C.) to govern the conduct of government contractors and on a bill from Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) to improve government accountability and enhance the roles of federal inspectors general.

“For months the committees of jurisdiction have done dozens of oversight hearings,” Pelosi said. “What we have uncovered is waste, fraud and abuse, real corruption in the spending of this money in Iraq. No systems are in place for accountability and to find and prevent the abuse.”

The House could move to other Iraq-related legislation in October as well, Pelosi said, although she did not provide specifics. She also declined to say whether Democrats would continue to pursue specific timelines or a definitive deadline for withdrawal efforts.

In the meantime, the House has yet to resolve a timetable for a new supplemental war spending bill, expected to include White House requests for about $190 billion.

“What I am saying to the Appropriations Committee is that I want them to scrub this request — What is the mission? Where is the money going? — before we take up any other legislation,” Pelosi said.

During an appearance at the National Press Club, Hoyer said that timetable remains “under discussion,” but he asserted that the Democratic majority would not leave military personnel “without resources.” Democratic sources have said current funding levels should sustain operations in Iraq through at least January 2008.

Addressing criticisms about the Democratic majority’s inability to change the direction of the war since taking control of Congress this year, Hoyer said, “Turning a big ship takes time.” He added it also is difficult, given that the “captain at the wheel doesn’t believe we ought to change course.”

Asked whether he agreed with assertions in former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan’s recently published memoirs that the Bush administration started the Iraq War in large part to protect oil interests, Hoyer said: “Perhaps he’s accurate.”

“I think it would be difficult to deny that was the case,” Hoyer later added, but he acknowledged that other factors — including concerns over the activities of the former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein — also played a role.

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