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Hoyer: Don’t Tie Iraq Policy to Funding

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. — House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) proposed Thursday that Democrats stop using spending bills as the primary vehicle in their attempts to halt the Iraq War, and focus instead on passing stand-alone policy initiatives.

“We still believe we need a change of policy in Iraq,” said Hoyer, who is attending the annual Democratic retreat here.

The Maryland lawmaker said Democrats should continue their efforts to end the war, but he advised against tying such legislation to future war funding bills, as the House tried repeatedly in 2007 without success.

Hoyer asserted that tactic ultimately distracts from its goal.

“That [approach] is subject on both sides of the Capitol to concerns about supporting the troops,” he said.

Instead, Hoyer — who noted repeatedly that the proposal is his own view, and not a Democratic policy — said he would like to see the House pursue a stand-alone initiative to address troop redeployment and a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq.

“We can pass legislation through the House and I think we can subject the Senate to an extensive debate,” he said.

Nonetheless, the House must still address another supplemental war spending bill — possibly as early as March but more likely in the summer — but of the possibility of attaching policy legislation to that bill, Hoyer said: “That’s not a practical alternative.”

In addition, he said the House will fund the war only through Oct. 1, the start of the next fiscal year. Any further funding will be considered at that time, he said.

In a separate press conference, House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) similarly questioned the effectiveness of continuing to pursue an end to the Iraq War through spending legislation.

“People seem to feel that any vote for Iraq spending is an expression of support for Iraq policy. That’s just absolutely not true at all,” Clyburn said, and later added: “We have a responsibility to do what we can to protect the men and women who are there.”

He added that although Democrats could pass such a bill, it would likely meet the fate of a similar measure vetoed by President Bush in spring 2007, which the House failed to override.

“We aren’t going to get to 290,” Clyburn said, referring to the number of votes needed to override a presidential veto. “We can keep pressing the issue … but we can’t get there.”

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