(Host) Congressman Peter Welch says he supports a new effort to block additional funding for the Iraq war until President Bush sets a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops.
Welch says the bill may offer the best opportunity for opponents of the war to influence the policies of the Bush Administration.
VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.
(Kinzel) The chairman of the House Appropriations committee, Representative David Obey, is proposing the new approach.
Obey’s message to the White House is quite simple: Unless the President announces a timetable to bring combat troops home from Iraq, Obey will block the Administration’s request for an additional $189 billion to fund the war.
Welch, who’s a longtime critic of the war, thinks this plan offers an opportunity to persuade the President to make changes in his Iraq policies.
(Welch) "And bottom line he’s simply stubbornly clinging to a policy that we know has failed. And that is have all military all the time when we’ve got what is fundamentally a political and economic problem. Iraq’s in a civil war and it’s not the job of the American military to referee a civil war. This may be the only way we’re going to bring the President to the table to change the direction of the war. So I do support using the power of the purse."
(Kinzel) Some critics of Rep. Obey’s plan charge that it threatens to undermine support for U.S. troops at a time when the country is at war. Welch strongly disagrees with this analysis.
(Welch) "The troops in the field will always have what they need. Everyone knows that it is our obligation to make sure they have what they need. This is a battle about changing the policy and the President has not come to the table to work with anyone about changing the policy. That’s the point of the Obey initiative here."
(Kinzel) The Obey plan also includes the imposition of a progressive income tax surcharge to pay for the war. With the latest funding request, the United States will have spent roughly $700 billion on the war effort.
Welch doesn’t support a war tax but he thinks Obey is making a critical point with this part of his plan.
(Welch)"I oppose the war tax because I oppose the war and I think the point that Obey is really making is that the President is bankrupting the country and the president opposes paying for anything that he’s supporting except by doing things like cutting health acre and passing those bills off to the states."
(Kinzel) Representative Obey’s plan could become a key issue in the near future, because current funding for the Iraq war runs out at the end of the month.
For VPR News I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.
AP Photo/Toby Talbot