WASHINGTON -- The Pentagon alerted about 35,000 Army soldiers yesterday that they could be sent to Iraq this fall. In Congress, House Democrats defiantly pushed a plan to limit war funding to two-month installments.
The deployment orders signed by Defense Secretary Robert Gates would allow commanders to maintain the buildup of troops through the end of the year if needed. President Bush has ordered nearly 30,000 additional troops to Iraq to quell a spike in violence, particularly in and around Baghdad.
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said the orders do not mean the military has decided to maintain the increased force levels through December. The Pentagon "has been very clear that a decision about the duration of the surge will depend on conditions on the ground," he said.
The action comes as Bush is under increasing pressure to pull troops out of Iraq. The president last week vetoed $124.2 billion legislation that would have funded the war while requiring troops to start coming home this fall. A CNN-
House Democratic leaders briefed party members yesterday on new legislation that would fund the Iraq war through July and then give Congress the option of cutting off money after that if conditions do not improve. Bush requested more than $90 billion to fund the war through September.
The proposal is aimed at appeasing Democratic lawmakers who want to end the war immediately and at urging leaders not to back down after Bush's veto last week. But lacking a firm endorsement by the Senate, the challenge by House Democrats seemed more for political show.
Senate majority leader Harry Reid, a Democrat from Nevada, told reporters before meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi yesterday that "nothing's been ruled out and nothing's been ruled in" as he would continue to try to work with the White House.
House Democratic leaders struck a more defiant tone. "I didn't commit to any compromise" with the White House, said Pelosi of California.
The House bill would provide $30 billion to pay for military operations through July, as well as $10 billion for other high-priority projects, including training security forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, military base closings, and hurricane relief efforts.
Under the proposal, Bush would have to update Congress by July 13 on whether the Iraqi government was meeting certain political and security reforms. Congress would decide 10 days later whether to end the war and bring troops home or provide funding through September.