Christian Science Monitor
April 17, 2007

Bush's Choice On Funding The Troops

The funding bill Congress will deliver honors US troops and the will of
the American people. Will Bush turn his back on the nation?

By Robert Byrd and David Obey

Washington -- The time has come for President Bush to face reality and
make some tough decisions about the future of America's involvement in
Iraq. The president has two fundamental choices: He can demonstrate real
leadership by reaching across party lines to establish common ground on
a strategy for ending US involvement in Iraq's civil war, or he can
continue to divide the country by clinging to his failed policy.

In the days ahead, Congress will send Mr. Bush legislation that provides
funding for our troops and urgent priorities facing our nation. Our bill
will supply vital resources for our soldiers in the field, and it will
strengthen medical care for those returning from war and our veterans.

The president has claimed - falsely - that Congress is somehow delaying
funding for our troops. In fact, we have moved forward with this
emergency supplemental on a faster timetable than the previous requests
passed by the Republican-controlled 109th Congress. The president will
have this legislation on his desk before the end of the month. It will
be his choice, then, whether to hold up these funds with a veto or to
sign the bill into law.

The bill will not cut funds for our troops. Congress will provide nearly
$100 billion for our women and men in uniform. It will provide our
troops with body armor and specialized armored vehicles, which the
administration has failed to do. We will strengthen and improve
healthcare for our troops and veterans, which the administration has not
done. And Congress will craft a responsible strategy for the Iraqis to
take control of their own nation. Congress will insist on greater
accountability and responsibility both from the Bush administration and
the Iraqi government.

Importantly, this legislation also establishes a framework for beginning
the redeployment of our Armed Forces from Iraq to areas where they can
more effectively confront the most serious threats facing our nation and
the region. This redeployment will be paired with renewed efforts to
train and equip Iraqi security forces and to build regional and
international support for the Iraqi government.

The House and the Senate bills take different paths toward this goal;
but each recognizes that the American people do not support an
open-ended US military occupation in Iraq. They do not want our troops
mired in Iraq's civil war. They do not want our presence in Iraq to
serve as a catalyst for more violence, not only in Iraq but throughout
the Middle East.

Congress has responded to the people, crafting a new direction that will
provide the Iraqi government with the necessary motivation to pursue
real political reconciliation.

The American people have sent a clear message to Washington: It is time
to begin bringing our troops home from Iraq. If Bush vetoes this bill,
he will turn his back on the clearly expressed wishes of the nation.

Last week, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced that our troops
in Iraq and those troops set to deploy will have their tours extended to
15 months. This comes on top of the White House's announcement that they
were rushing thousands of troops back to Iraq for extended tours of
duty, without providing sufficient time for rest, recovery, and

Such plans, political posturing, and veto threats have placed the safety
of our troops in unnecessary jeopardy. It is simply unconscionable that
the White House is now attempting to blame Congress for the failure to
successfully prosecute the war.

The president has said on many occasions that the US commitment to Iraq
is not open-ended. Now is the time for him to show the nation that those
were not hollow words.

The president has also declared his commitment to improve the lives of
our veterans. If the president chooses to work with Congress - the
people's representatives - we can reach a bipartisan solution that
unites the country rather than divides it, while meeting the
expectations and needs of the American people.

Sen. Robert Byrd (D) of West Virginia is chairman of the Senate
Appropriations Committee. Rep. David Obey (D) of Wisconsin is chairman
of the House Appropriations Committee.