This morning on CBS’s Face the Nation, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced that Congress may refuse to authorize funding for an escalation of U.S. forces to Iraq if President Bush cannot justify the strategy.
Pelosi stated clearly that Congress will fully support all U.S. forces currently in Iraq. “But if the president wants to add to this mission, he is going to have to justify it,” Pelosi said. “This is new for him because up until now the Republican Congress has given a blank check with no oversight, no standards, no conditions, and we have gone into this situation, which is a war without end, which the American people have rejected.”
A recent Center for American Progress memo explains how Congress could — and should — prevent Bush from sending more troops into a civil war in Iraq without a clear mission. An excerpt:
Although the new Congress should not refuse to provide the funds that the troops already in Iraq and Afghanistan need, it can place an amendment on the supplemental funding bill that states that if the administration wants to increase the number of troops in Iraq above 150,000, it must provide a plan for their purpose and require an up or down vote on exceeding that number.
Defense Appropriations Chairman John Murtha (D-PA) told Arianna Huffington last week that he wants to “fence the funding,” denying the president the resources to escalate the war, instead using the money to take care of the soldiers as we bring them home from Iraq “as soon as we can.”
UPDATE: Taylor Marsh has video of the rest of Pelosi’s interview.
UPDATE II: Bob Geiger has more analysis.
SCHIEFFER: So, you’ve told him what you don’t want to do, and that is to expand the size of the force in Iraq even on a short-term basis. But what if he decides to do that? What will be your action then?
PELOSI: If the president chooses to escalate the war, in his budget request we want to see a distinction between what is there to support the troops who are there now. The American people and the Congress support those troops. We will not abandon them.
But if the president wants to add to this mission, he is going to have to justify it. And this is new for him because up until now the Republican Congress has given him a blank check with no oversight, no standards, no conditions. And we’ve gone into this situation, which is a war without end, which the American people have rejected.
SCHIEFFER: Now, let me ask you, and make sure I understand exactly what you are saying because, up until now, Democrats have not been enthusiastic about using the ultimate weapon, and that is to cut off funding.
PELOSI: We won’t do that.
SCHIEFFER: But you will not vote any more money to expand the size of the force there?
Is that what you’re telling us?
PELOSI: I’m saying two things. We will always support the troops who are there. If the president wants to expand the mission, that’s a conversation he has to have with the Congress of the United States.
But that’s not a carte blanche, a blank check to him to do whatever he wishes there.
And I want to make a distinction here. Democrats do support increasing the size of the Army by 30,000, the Marines by 10,000 to make sure we’re able to protect the American people.
SCHIEFFER: Enlarging the services overall?
PELOSI: Overall, in order to protect the American people against any threats to our interests, wherever they may occur. That’s different, though, from adding troops to Iraq.
The president wants to escalate a war where his generals are telling him that the additional troops will not be effective, that they’re easily digestible, to have this number of troops go into Baghdad, and then again, ignoring the strong message of the American people.
SCHIEFFER: So at this point, the Democrats in Congress are not prepared to pay for or to fund an additional number of troops in Iraq?
PELOSI: We have to see what the president has to say. It’s not an open-ended commitment anymore. But we will always be there to protect our troops and to support our troops.