Finally Pushing Back
A Senate Republican on Tuesday directly challenged President Bush's declaration that "I am the decision-maker" on issues of war.
"I would suggest respectfully to the president that he is not the sole decider," Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said during a hearing on Congress' war powers amid an increasingly harsh debate over Iraq war policy. "The decider is a shared and joint responsibility," Specter said.
The question of whether to use its power over the government's purse strings to force an end to the war in Iraq, and under what conditions, is among the issues faced by the newly empowered Democratic majority in Congress, and even some of the president's political allies as well.
No one challenges the notion that Congress can stop a war by canceling its funding. In fact, Vice President Dick Cheney challenged Congress to back up its objections to Bush's plan to put 21,500 more troops in Iraq by zeroing out the war budget.
Underlying Cheney's gambit is the consensus understanding that such a drastic move is doubtful because it would be fraught with political peril.
But there are other legislative options to force the war's end, say majority Democrats and some of Bush's traditional Republican allies.
The alternatives range from capping the number of troops permitted in Iraq to cutting off funding for troop deployments beyond a certain date or setting an end date for the war.
"The Constitution makes Congress a coequal branch of government. It's time we start acting like it," said Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis., who is chairing a hearing Tuesday on Congress' war powers and forwarding legislation to eventually prohibit funding for the deployment of troops to Iraq.
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