Pelosi, White House trade harsh words over Iraq

Published: Saturday, January 20, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 19, 2007 at 10:56 p.m.

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi contended Friday that President Bush is rushing new troops to Iraq and betting that Congress won't cut off funds once they're in battle. The White House called her assertion "poisonous."

In an exchange of harsh rhetoric that underscored the intensity of the political fight, Pelosi, D-Calif., said the war should not be "an obligation of the American people in perpetuity."

"The president knows that because the troops are in harm's way, that we won't cut off the resources. That's why he's moving so quickly to put them in harm's way," Pelosi said on ABC's "Good Morning America."

When asked whether she thought the president manipulated the deployments to avoid congressional action, Pelosi said she hoped he did not but thought "he could have told us about it sooner. ... We found out about it as the troops were going in."

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino retorted that lawmakers are involved in a "sound bite war" against Bush, counter to Democrats' promises of bipartisanship.

"Those particular comments were poisonous," Perino said. "I think questioning the president's motivations and suggesting that he, for some political reason, is rushing troops into harm's way, is not appropriate, it is not correct, and it is unfortunate because we do have troops in harm's way."

In a letter to Bush, Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said they were eager to work "in a bipartisan fashion on the terrorism issue and in so doing strengthen the relationship between your administration and Congress."

Meanwhile, support was building around a resolution that would oppose Bush's plans for more troops to Iraq.

Senate Democrats, backed by Republicans Olympia Snowe of Maine and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, unveiled legislation this week that would criticize Bush's decision.

"It is not in the national interest of the United States to deepen its military involvement in Iraq, particularly by escalating the United States military force presence in Iraq," the nonbinding Senate measure states.

"When we hold the up-or-down vote — and in the many votes that follow — ... our troops will get everything they need," Reid said Friday. "It is the president who will find he no longer has a blank check."

Republican Sen. Gordon Smith of Oregon said he was wary of the term "escalating" in the resolution and was working with Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Ben Nelson, D-Neb., on a "constructive, nonpartisan resolution that expresses the opposition of the Senate to the surge."

Collins and Nelson, alongside Sen. John Warner, R-Va., were expected to announce the details of that resolution on Monday. While the senators declined to offer details, Warner has said he is most concerned that U.S. troops will be caught in the crossfire of an endless sectarian conflict.

Officials have said one possibility under discussion by some Republicans is an alternative that supports the troop increase as long as the Iraqi government meets certain conditions.

Pelosi's criticism Friday came as Lee Hamilton, the Democratic co-chairman of the Iraq Study Group, told a House panel that Bush's plan to deploy 21,500 additional troops to secure Baghdad and Anbar province could delay progress in training Iraqi security forces.

The bipartisan Iraq Study Group recommended removing U.S. combat troops by early next year, and changing the U.S. mission from security to training and logistical support of Iraqi troops.

If a focus remains on security, "you delay the date of completion of the training mission. You delay the date of handing responsibility to the Iraqis. You delay the date of departure of U.S. troops," Hamilton told the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

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