By Jennifer Yachnin
In an effort to maintain pressure on Republicans over the Iraq War, House Democrats are readying another series of votes on the issue --including a motion to deauthorize the war -- that could come to the floor as early as July.
'This is an approach that has a good deal of potential to change Iraq policy,' said Rep. David Price (D-N.C.), the sponsor of one of several deauthorization measures introduced in the House.
The North Carolina lawmaker, whose bill would set a withdrawal date and call for an exit strategy, said he has taken part in recent Democratic leadership discussions about moving a deauthorization measure to the floor in mid- to late-July, the same period in which the House is expected to vote on the fiscal 2008 Defense appropriations bill.
'I think there's a lot of interest in looking at the authorization repeal,' said Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.), who also has sponsored a measure to curb the war. She added that Democratic leaders have yet to attach themselves to any particular bill. 'We want the best product.'
But a Democratic leadership aide, who asked not to be identified, said that while the majority would like to move an Iraq bill before the Defense spending measure -- 'The goal is to have it in July' -- the House also could take up other measures aimed at winding down the war.
'There could be well-crafted amendments to the DOD bill that deal with Iraq at that time,' the aide said, but declined to offer specifics.
Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), a member of the Appropriations subcommittee on Defense, said Tuesday that he expects the fiscal 2008 bill to contain measures including the prohibition of permanent bases in Iraq as well as the invasion of Iran, and said that measures stripped from the recent supplemental war-spending bill could also be revived.
'All the readiness standards are fair game for the '08 bill,' Moran said, in reference to standards proposed by Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), the Defense appropriations subcommittee chairman, that would require military personnel to receive specific levels of training and rest between deployments.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) asserted in a June 13 letter to President Bush that the Democratic majorities in both chambers would aim to produce legislation in the coming months to 'limit the U.S. mission in Iraq, begin the phased redeployment of U.S. forces, and bring the war to a responsible end.'
Reid told CongressNow on Tuesday that Senate debate on a defense authorization bill containing Iraq language -- originally expected to begin next week -- may not begin until after the July Fourth break.
Congress approved a supplemental war-spending bill in April containing similar provisions, including timelines to end the war, but Bush vetoed that measure in May.
A subsequent version of the bill signed by the president did not include the majority of those provisions, although it did provide for a September vote on whether to withdraw troops from Iraq.
House lawmakers also expect to take up the next war-funding bill in September, when White House and military officials have asserted the effectiveness of the recent troop increase can be evaluated.
A spokesman for House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) criticized the possibility of Democrats bringing a deauthorization measure to the floor in mid-summer.
'It sounds like the Democrats are going to continue playing general on Capitol Hill without any examination of ... what's going on in Iraq on the ground,' said spokesman Brian Kennedy. 'Doing something in July is not really giving [Gen. David Petraeus] the chance that he needs ... to fight and win.'
By Jennifer Yachnin