Asked on Sunday whether President George W. Bush would "feel bound by legislation seeking to withdraw combat troops within 120 days," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice implied that the answer was no, saying: "The president is going to, as commander in chief, need to do what the country needs done," AP reported. -- "But Sen. Carl Levin, Democratic chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said lawmakers would step up efforts to force Bush to change course. 'The president needs a check and a balance,' said Levin." -- Meanwhile "Key Democrats are plotting an attempt to repeal the congressional authorization granted in 2002 which permitted Bush to go to war to disarm Saddam Hussein and implement U.N. Security Council resolutions," AFP reported Sunday. -- "But the White House, and Republicans in Congress have pledged to resist what constitutional scholars say is an unprecedented bid to curtail a president's powers in wartime," Stephen Collinson said. -- Experts say the American Republic is entering uncharted constitutional waters. -- Prof. Michael Mello of Vermont Law School said: "Anyone who tells you that they are certain that they understand what the law is in this area is pulling your leg. No one knows where it really stands and I hope both sides will think long and hard before they force ultimately the U.S. Supreme Court to engage and resolve these issues." ...
RICE SAYS BUSH WILL NOT ABIDE BY LEGISLATION TO LIMIT IRAQ WAR
February 25, 2007
WASHINGTON -- Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged the Democratic-controlled U.S. Congress not to interfere in the conduct of the Iraq war and suggested President George W. Bush would defy troop withdrawal legislation.
But Sen. Carl Levin, Democratic chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said lawmakers would step up efforts to force Bush to change course. "The president needs a check and a balance," said Levin.
Rice said Sunday that proposals being drafted by Senate Democrats to limit the war amounted to "the worst of micromanagement of military affairs." She said military leaders such as Gen. David Petraeus, the new U.S. commander in Iraq, believe Bush's plan to send more troops is necessary.
"I can't imagine a circumstance in which it's a good thing that their flexibility is constrained by people sitting here in Washington, sitting in the Congress," Rice said. She was asked in a broadcast interview whether Bush would feel bound by legislation seeking to withdraw combat troops within 120 days.
"The president is going to, as commander in chief, need to do what the country needs done," she said.
The Senate Democrats' legislation would try to limit the mission of U.S. troops in Iraq by revoking Congress' 2002 vote authorizing Bush's use of force against Saddam Hussein.
One draft version supported by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, also a Democrat, would pull out combat forces by March of next year and restrict U.S. troops to fighting al-Qaida terrorists, training the Iraqi security forces, and maintaining Iraq's borders.
Democrats have acknowledged that the proposal does not yet have enough votes to overcome Republican procedural obstacles and a veto by Bush. But they are hoping the latest effort will draw enough Republican support to embarrass the president and keep the pressure on.
Levin said it was appropriate for lawmakers to limit the broad wording of the 2002 war resolution given how the situation in Iraq has deteriorated.
"This is not a surge so much as it is a plunge into Baghdad and into the middle of a civil war," he said. "We're trying to change the policy, and if someone wants to call that tying the hands instead of changing the policy, yeah the president needs a check and a balance."
Sensitive to wavering Republicans, Rice made clear that Bush had no intention of backing away from plans to send 21,500 more combat troops to Iraq. While the U.S. role has changed since its overthrow of Saddam, the United States is obligated to see the mission through by working to build a stable and democratic Iraq, she said.
Rice said it is impossible to distinguish what is going on in Iraq from the larger fight against al-Qaeda.
"Some of these car bombs may indeed be the work of an organization like al-Qaeda," she said of the violence that continues to rock Baghdad.
"I would hope that Congress would recognize that it's very important for them to have the oversight role," Rice said. "But when it comes to the execution of policy in the field, there has to be a clear relationship between the commander in chief and the commanders in the field."
Senate Republicans recently thwarted two Democratic attempts to pass a nonbinding resolution critical of Bush's troop plan.
In the House, a nonbinding anti-war measure was approved this month. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, has said she expects the next challenge might be to impose money restrictions and a requirement that the Pentagon adhere to strict readiness standards for troops heading to the war zone.
But that plan has drawn only lukewarm support from Democrats in the Senate and some in the House, who believe it is a politically risky strategy that could be seen as an unconstitutional micromanaging of a president's power to wage war.
"We're going to fund the troops as long as they're there," Levin said.
--Rice appeared on "Fox News Sunday" and "This Week" on ABC. Levin was on "Meet the Press" on NBC.
NEW IRAQ SHOWDOWN LOOMS IN CONGRESS
By Stephen Collinson
February 25, 2007
WASHINGTON -- The showdown between Democrats and the White House over the war in Iraq is set to enter a new phase this week, as President George W. Bush's opponents in Congress attempt to shackle his war powers.
Senate Democrats, increasingly frustrated by their failure to thwart Bush's plan to surge more troops into Iraq, even as Britain starts bringing some of its soldiers home, are gearing up for a battle with major constitutional implications.
The tone is becoming increasingly acrimonious in the House of Representatives, too, after an exchange of barbed comments between Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Dick Cheney, who has been visiting Australia.
Key Democrats are plotting an attempt to repeal the congressional authorization granted in 2002 which permitted Bush to go to war to disarm Saddam Hussein and implement U.N. Security Council resolutions.
They argue that Bush's plan to send 21,500 more troops to Iraq, and the use of U.S. soldiers to tackle near anarchy on Iraqi streets in the middle of what they say is a raging civil war, are not covered by the joint resolution.
Draft Democrat plans would seek to limit the U.S. mission in Iraq to battling terrorists, guarding Iraq's borders, and training Iraqi troops, a congressional source said.
"We gave him the authority to take out weapons of mass destruction which never existed, take down Saddam who is dead, and force compliance to U.N. resolutions that are already enforced," Democratic Senator Joseph Biden said in a CNN interview Friday.
But the White House, and Republicans in Congress have pledged to resist what constitutional scholars say is an unprecedented bid to curtail a president's powers in wartime.
"You can't unring a bell," the Republican minority leader in the Senate Mitch McConnell (news, bio, voting record) told reporters when asked about Democrat plans to adjust retroactively the authorization.
Whether Congress actually has the power to restrict Bush's wartime muscle is also in dispute, setting up a row over presidential powers, constitutional responsibilities and the division of authority in American government.
"Anyone who tells you that they are certain that they understand what the law is in this area is pulling your leg," said Professor Michael Mello, a constitutional expert at Vermont Law School.
"No one knows where it really stands and I hope both sides will think long and hard before they force ultimately the U.S. Supreme Court to engage and resolve these issues."
Politically, the Democratic Party gambit looks sure to face the same criticisms as previous attempts to pass symbolic resolutions opposing the Bush surge plan -- which succeeded in the House but foundered in the Senate.
It already seems unlikely the party can put together the 60 votes in the 100-seat Senate to override Republican stalling tactics, and experts say even if such a move passed, Bush could veto it.
"They apparently don't (even) have the votes for a non-binding, essentially meaningless resolution," Mello said.
Republicans, aware of the Democratic Party dilemma, are daring their opponents to attempt the politically dangerous move of cutting off funding for the war -- and risk being seen as unsupportive of troops in combat.
In the House, Democrats are also pushing their bid to frustrate Bush's surge plan. Pelosi has called for a steady withdrawal of U.S. troops to start within six months.
That stance got her into a heated row with Cheney, who said in an interview with ABC News it would "validate" al-Qaeda's strategy, prompting Pelosi to complain to the White House.
"She accused me of questioning her patriotism," Cheney told ABC. "I didn't question her patriotism, I questioned her judgement."
Other Democrats led by Representative John Murtha are also considering legislation which would influence troop deployments by raising standards for training, equipment and time off for soldiers between deployments.