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Democrats Boost Spin on Iraq Funds

Democrats will turn up the volume this week on a message that contrasts spending on the Iraq War — including the expected $200 billion supplemental spending request — with anticipated costs for the children’s health insurance plan vetoed by President Bush.

“We’re going to be building on it further,” said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.). “Our view is the president, he asked for $200 billion for the war in Iraq, and then referred to children’s health care as excessive spending.”

While Democratic leaders have echoed the message for weeks — often asserting that the cost of a few weeks of the war would cover the expense of the children’s health plan expansion — Emanuel noted the House would spotlight the issue this week with a Tuesday night vote on legislation targeting war profiteering, as well as expected reports from the Oversight and Government Reform Committee on waste, fraud and abuse in Iraq-related spending and a Budget Committee hearing on the long-term impact of war costs scheduled in late October.

While the House is slated to vote on overriding the president’s SCHIP veto Oct. 18 — Democrats face the difficult task of changing at least 15 Republican votes to succeed — Emanuel said House leaders intend to continue comparisons of domestic and war spending.

“We’re going to do it beyond that,” he said, later adding: “We want to talk about spending. We want to talk about waste in Iraq.”

But one senior Democratic aide, who asked not to be identified, said that theme was only one aspect of the leadership’s strategy. “It’s certainly an effective message,” the aide said, while asserting that the overarching message remains a focus on the importance of bipartisanship, rather than the cost differences.

Despite GOP support in the Senate, however, House Republicans have rejected that characterization of the bill.

“We could be sitting around a conference table right now talking about middle ground and focusing on kids first, but Democrats chose instead to put the veto override vote off until the 18th so they could preserve a political issue and not accomplish something meaningful,” said Brian Kennedy, spokesman for Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio).

In the meantime, liberal members of the Democratic Caucus hope to shift focus to their own proposal to stem combat operations in Iraq, as Rep. Barbara Lee (Calif.) — co-chairwoman of the Progressive Caucus along with Rep. Lynn Woolsey (Calif.) — unveils today the results of a poll commissioned by the faction.

While the lawmakers’ offices declined to provide specifics on the survey, paid for by Lee’s leadership political action committee, the findings are widely expected to support the Members’ calls to end continued funding for the war other than providing for the withdrawal of troops and contractors.

Among the report’s expected findings are that the only subgroup to show majority support for continued funding of the war without new restrictions from Congress are registered Republican male voters, according to a source familiar with the survey.

The poll, conducted by Lake Research Partners, asked participants whether Congress should vote against of the anticipated $200 billion supplemental spending bill, vote in favor of the bill without restrictions or vote to use the money only to end the war.

The nationwide telephone survey, conducted Sept. 20-23, included 1,000 adults and 796 registered voters.

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