KDVR Fox 31 and KCNC CBS4 uncritically reported President Bush's assertion that money for the Iraq war will run out if the Democratic-controlled Congress does not send him a funding bill to sign by mid-April. The broadcasts ignored reporting that the Pentagon could fund operations into July.
In April 3 reports about the dispute between Congress and President Bush over funding for the Iraq war, KCNC CBS4 and KDVR Fox 31 uncritically reported White House claims that funding would run out soon if the Democratic-led Congress does not quickly pass a spending bill the president agrees with. Both newscasts omitted reports that the war could be funded by alternative measures for some time.
During KCNC's CBS4 News at 10 p.m., a segment reported by Jodi Brooks uncritically aired video of Bush saying, “If Congress fails to act within the next week, it will have significant consequences for our men and women in the armed forces.” Brooks then dubiously claimed that "[m]oney allocated for the war runs out in the middle of this month, that's why there's such urgency to pass a war funding bill."
Similarly, and without offering a Democratic response, KDVR Fox 31 co-anchor Libby Weaver reported on the News at Nine O'Clock broadcast that Bush called Democrats “irresponsible.” Fox 31 also aired video of Bush saying, “If Congress fails to pass a bill I can sign by mid-April, the Army will be forced to consider cutting back.”
The U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate have passed bills to fund the troops; those bills are expected to be reconciled in conference, and the final bill would be sent to the president for his signature. Bush, however, has promised to veto the troop funding bill if it includes provisions setting timelines for the redeployment of troops from Iraq.
Neither broadcast mentioned a March 28 Congressional Research Service report that concluded, “Based on projections of monthly obligations rates, the Army could finance the O&M [operation and maintenance] costs of both its baseline and war program ... through most of July 2007” by exercising its power to tap transfer authority funds:
Based on Army data and estimates, the Army could finance its O&M expenses through the end of May by tapping the $52.6 billion in O&M funding already provided by Congress in the FY2007 DOD Appropriations Act (P.L. 109-289) and the Continuing Resolution (P.L. 110-5/H.J. Res.20).
If the Army temporarily tapped all this transfer authority, it could have a total of $60.1 billion available rather than $52.6 billion. Based on projections of monthly obligations rates, the Army could finance the O&M costs of both its baseline and war program for almost two additional months or through most of July 2007, if it tapped all of this transfer authority.
Further, as the weblog Think Progress has noted, “Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) and others have been arguing” that Bush's claims about running out of money by mid-April are “wrong” and that there is “plenty of time for negotiations.” In addition, a March 29 article in The Hill reported there are a number of potential options to continue funding the military if Bush vetoes the current approved spending measures and Congress is forced to create new ones. The article noted that "[d]espite the rhetoric flying down Pennsylvania Avenue ... the Pentagon may have several options to keep its war operations going into early summer." According to The Hill:
Rhetoric aside, the military and the White House have several options, even though somewhat limited, to try and ward off a potential crisis. And in principle, the Pentagon can find the necessary funding to sustain its operations on the battlefield, but that could have repercussions elsewhere in the defense budget.
The Pentagon can also shift around un-obligated balances for operations and maintenance in the $70 billion bridge fund, which is part of the 2007 defense appropriations bill and is supposed to tide the military over while it awaits supplemental funding. That shift would not need any kind of formal reprogramming or congressional approval, according to sources.
Should the situation get dire, the secretary of defense could invoke the Civil War-era “Feed and Forage Act” to continue war operations. The act allows the military to obligate money for clothing, food, fuel, housing, transportation and medical supplies in excess of available appropriations for the year, without first getting congressional approval.
From the April 3 broadcast of KCNC's CBS4 News at 10 p.m.:
BROOKS: He is challenging Congress to send him an Iraq, an Iraq spending bill he can sign by mid-May. He says if it is not a clean bill, then it does not -- he says that it does not, it should be a clean bill and that it should not include any sort of troop withdraw time table.
[begin video clip]
BROOKS: From the White House, President Bush announced that he's ready for the vacationing Congress to return to work.
BUSH: They need to come off their vacation, get a bill to my desk. And if it's, if it's got strings and mandates and withdrawals and pork, I'll veto it and then we can get down to business.
BROOKS: Here in Colorado, Democratic Congressman Ed Perlmutter is responding.
PERLMUTTER: Yes, I'm frustrated with him just threatening a veto instead of wanting to sit down and really work something out.
BROOKS: The threat of a veto had Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid firing back from his home state of Nevada. He said if the president vetoes this spending bill, he'll introduce a new bill, cutting off all money for the war after March 31st of next year.
REID: The president has a swagger. And he has -- he's been very uncompromising. And that's the reason we're in the quagmire we're in in Iraq.
BROOKS: Threatening to cut off war spending is not the answer, says Colorado Republican Senator Wayne Allard.
ALLARD: The president has come up with a new plan. He's come up with new personnel to implement that plan. I think you need to give it an opportunity to work.
BROOKS: And President Bush's promise of a veto also comes with a warning.
BUSH: If Congress fails to act in the next few weeks, it will have significant consequences for our men and women in the armed forces.
[end video clip]
BROOKS: The Senate is in recess for a week, the House for two weeks. Time is running out. Money allocated for the war runs out in the middle of this month, that's why there's such urgency to pass a war funding bill. Jim.
JIM BENEMANN [co-anchor]: All right. Thank you, Jodi. And we want to know what you think. Should a deadline for troop withdrawal be included in legislation to fund the war? You can vote in our online poll by visiting the U.S. and world section at cbs4denver.com.
From the April 3 broadcast of KDVR Fox 31's News at Nine O'Clock:
WEAVER: The war in Iraq fueling a war of words in Washington. The Senate majority leader threatening to withdraw funding for the conflict, while the president insists Americans do not want troops left in harm's way.
BUSH [video clip]: If Congress fails to pass a bill I can sign by mid-April, the Army will be forced to consider cutting back on equipment, equipment repair, and quality-of-life initiatives.
WEAVER: Mr. Bush called the Democrats, quote, irresponsible for taking off on spring break without passing the funding bill -- no strings attached. He says he'll veto any bill that attaches a timetable for withdrawal of troops.