An April 18 Associated Press article by Anne Flaherty on the standoff between congressional Democrats and President Bush over supplemental funding for the Iraq war reported that Democrats “remain divided” on whether to “cut off money” for the war, which, the article said, would “risk leaving troops in the lurch.” The suggestion that legislation advocated by some in Congress “risk[s] leaving troops in the lurch” echoes recent comments from President Bush. But while some members of Congress support plans to eliminate funding for operations in Iraq, none has advocated abandoning U.S. troops now in the field. Indeed, Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI), who has sponsored a bill to end funding for combat operations after March 31, 2008, recently took issue with a similar claim made by CNN anchor John Roberts. On the April 15 edition of CNN's Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer, Roberts said that “it's very difficult to make an argument to cut off the funds in the middle of a war” for “the troops in the field.” Feingold noted that his bill provides funding for troops and only “prohibit[s] funds for continued military operations after” March 2008. And, as Media Matters for America has noted, both Democratic-led houses of Congress have passed legislation providing funding to support the troops in Iraq, while Bush has promised to veto that funding if it doesn't meet his conditions.
Moreover, the AP article falsely claimed that the Senate's war funding bill “would require that Bush begin pulling out an unspecified number of troops right away.” In fact, the bill calls for withdrawal from Iraq to begin 120 days after the bill is enacted.
From the April 18 AP article, headlined “Democrats weigh next step in Iraq challenge” :
Congressional Democrats say there is no doubt President Bush will soon be confronted with legislation calling for an end to the Iraq war. But the new majority must decide how far to go in trying to tie Bush's hands and what will happen after the president's inevitable veto.
The debate is likely to expose fissures among Democrats, who remain divided on whether to cut off money for the unpopular war and risk leaving troops in the lurch.
In recent speeches, Bush has made similar claims, charging that Democrats' withdrawal plans “undercut our troops” and that “failure to fund our troops will mean that the readiness of our forces will suffer.”
But no Democrat has advocated a plan that would abandon U.S. forces in Iraq. In fact, Feingold's bill, which was recently introduced in the Senate, would eliminate funds for “the deployment in Iraq of members of the United States Armed Forces after March 31, 2008” but would also allow funding “to provide security for United States infrastructure and personnel.”
On Late Edition, Roberts also noted that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) co-sponsored Feingold's bill but added that he thought the move was a “real mistake” and that “the president is taking no end of glee in rubbing Harry Reid's face in that.” Roberts claimed that “other Democrats” told him that Reid had “overstepped himself” by co-sponsoring the bill, adding that the disagreement is “looking like this real petty fight on the part of the Democrats.” Similar to the April 18 AP article, Roberts then claimed that “when it comes down to this idea of funding the war, funding the troops in the field, it's very difficult to make an argument to cut off the funds in the middle of a war. It's never happened before.”
In response, Feingold sent a letter to Roberts on April 18 saying he had “falsely implied that the Feingold-Reid Iraq redeployment bill would 'cut off the funds in the middle of a war' for 'troops in the field.' ” Feingold continued: “Our legislation forces the safe redeployment of troops by March 31, 2008, by prohibiting funds for continued military operations after that date, with a few narrow exceptions. Troops in the field would continue to get their salaries, food, ammunition, weapons, and other supplies as they currently do.” Addressing Roberts' claim that Reid's decision to co-sponsor the bill was a “real mistake,” Feingold wrote: “Senator Reid recognizes that Congress has a responsibility to take this safe and appropriate step, as do the eight cosponsors of our bill and the countless Americans who are calling for an end to this war.”
Feingold also took issue with Roberts' characterization of efforts to end the war as a “petty fight on the part of Democrats” :
Public opinion polls consistently show that Americans strongly disapprove of the President's handling of Iraq and want a timetable of when we can bring the war to an end. It isn't “petty” for Congress to acknowledge the will of the American people by proposing such a timetable.
In addition, the article also mischaracterized the war funding bill passed by the Senate on March 29. According to the AP, the bill requires the withdrawal of U.S. troops “right away” :
On March 29, the Senate voted 51-47 for a similar, but less sweeping measure. That bill would require that Bush begin pulling out an unspecified number of troops right away with the goal of ending combat by March 31, 2008.
Yet the bill states that withdrawal is to begin 120 days after the bill's passage, not “right away” :
The President shall commence the phased redeployment of United States forces from Iraq not later than 120 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, with the goal of redeploying, by March 31, 2008.
Media Matters for America has recently documented media outlets' characterizations of the House and Senate bills as efforts to "stymie" Bush's request for war funding and their claims that Democrats are "undercutting [the] troops" and will leave them "high and dry in the middle of the fight." But both houses of Congress have passed legislation providing funding for the troops in the field. The Senate and House are expected to reconcile the bills in conference and send a final version to the president for his signature. Bush, however, has promised to veto the bill if it includes a timeline for the redeployment of troops from Iraq. So while Congress has demonstrated a clear intention to fund the troops, Bush has said he will veto the bill -- thereby denying funding to the troops -- if it doesn't meet his conditions.
Media Matters also recently documented several other myths and falsehoods related to war spending bills.
From the April 15 edition of CNN's Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer:
BLITZER: Let's talk about President Bush for a moment. In our new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll, “How is President Bush handling his job as president?” Thirty-six percent approve; 62 percent disapprove.
In this showdown he now has with the Democrats and some Republicans over funding for the war with Congress, who's got the upper hand?
ROBERTS: I think, right now, President Bush has got the upper hand. And I think he really got the upper hand a week ago, when Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, said, “I might sign on to the Russ Feingold bill to cut off funding for the war.” I think that was a real mistake. And I think the president is taking no end of glee in rubbing Harry Reid's face in that.
I've talked to a lot of other Democrats, too, who believe that Harry Reid overstepped himself, that he should have been more measured. Now it's looking like this real petty fight on the part of the Democrats. And when it comes down to this idea of funding the war, funding the troops in the field, it's very difficult to make an argument to cut off the funds in the middle of a war. It's never happened before.