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Murtha Plan to End War
By Richard Cowan and David Alexander
February 15, 2007

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Rep. John Murtha, a leading congressional opponent of the war in Iraq, on Thursday said his plans for placing conditions on how President George W. Bush can spend $93.4 billion in new combat funds would effectively stop an American troop buildup.

"They won't be able to continue. They won't be able to do the deployment. They won't have the equipment, they don't have the training and they won't be able to do the work. There's no question in my mind," the Pennsylvania Democrat said.

Murtha, an ex-Marine in his 18th term, made his remarks in a Web cast on movecongress.org, which hopes to influence Congress to stop the war in Iraq.

As the chairman of a House of Representatives panel that oversees military spending, Murtha plans to advance legislation next month attaching strings to the additional war funds Bush requested on February 5.

At a news conference on Wednesday, Bush warned Congress against tying his hands on the war.

"I make it very clear to the members of Congress, starting now, that they need to fund our troops and they need to make sure we have the flexibility necessary to get the job done," Bush said.

The Pentagon is hoping that Congress approves Bush's request in April, when it says money for continuing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will start to run dry.

Besides being the battleground for a tough fight over the Iraq war, the funding bill also could become a magnet for controversial aid to U.S. farmers who have sustained weather-related losses and for more money to rebuild southern states hit by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

With opposition to the Iraq war beginning to run deep in Congress, Democrats now in control of the House and Senate are trying to assert their power of the purse in ways that they think could diminish the U.S. military involvement, while also providing funds to support troops already there.

The House is scheduled to vote on Friday on a nonbinding resolution opposing Bush's 21,500-troop increase for Iraq.

Murtha hopes to choke off the 4-year-old war in Iraq by placing four conditions on combat funds through September 30:

The Pentagon would have to certify that troops being sent to Iraq are "fully combat ready" with training and equipment; troops must have at least one year at home between combat deployments; combat assignments could not be extended beyond one year; a "stop-loss" program forcing soldiers to extend their enlistment periods would be prohibited.

"We're trying to force a redeployment not by taking money away, by redirecting money," Murtha said, adding he wants U.S. funds to be slanted more toward diplomacy and Iraq reconstruction.

House Minority Leader John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, blasted Murtha's proposals.

"While American troops are fighting radical Islamic terrorists thousands of miles away, it is unthinkable that the United States Congress would move to discredit their mission, cut off their reinforcements and deny them the resources they need to succeed and return home safely," Boehner said.

Even if Murtha succeeds in winning House approval of placing conditions on Iraq funding, the initiative likely would face a tough fight in the Senate. While Democrats in Congress realize Bush likely would veto such legislation, they see their efforts as ratcheting up pressure on the administration to bring an end to the war.

© Reuters 2007. All Rights Reserved.

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