WASHINGTON – Republicans on Capitol Hill ramped up their opposition to a Democratic proposal Friday to halt war funding for new missions in Iraq, even as members of House marched toward likely approval of a nonbinding resolution opposing the president's planned troop surge.
"They ultimately plan to cut off funds for the troops," the Senate's top Republican, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, told FOX News on Friday.
He said Democrats were trying to micromanage the war, and "they want to substitute their judgment for that of Gen. [David] Petraeus," who was confirmed in January to become the top U.S. military commander in Iraq.
Republicans questioned the logic of a plan that he said would limit what top military leaders believe is the best chance at bringing peace to the war-torn country. The White House, however, remained standoffish in the debate.
The Democrats' top military hawk-turned Iraq war foe on Thursday outlined his plan that would limit the president's plan to send an additional 21,500 troops into Iraq. Rep. John Murtha's plan would do so by means of putting training and equipment restrictions on troops that would be sent, as well as requiring troops returning to Iraq to first get one year's rest before being redeployed.
A FOX News/Opinion Dynamics poll taken Feb. 13-14 of 900 registered voters nationwide showed that 54 percent would vote against funding the increase in troops if they were in Congress.
White House press secretary Tony Snow on Friday told reporters that administration didn't have any comment on specific measures in Murtha's plans.
"We know what Rep. Murtha has said, but we're just not going to get into trying to characterize the specifics — a position about a bill that has yet to see the light of day."
Snow repeated earlier thoughts, saying that Bush has insisted that "anything that is going to tie the hands of military commanders and deny both the funds and flexibility they're going to need, he will take a dim view of."
Earlier, White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said that while while Congress has the authority to limit money, it is not clear if it has the authority to direct where money is spent.
Sen. Majority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois said Democratic leaders in the Senate are considering limiting funding for the president's plans. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., also was expected to make remarks on the topic Friday.
"After the first vote on the president's policy about escalating the number of troops that are currently serving in Iraq, there will be a series of follow on votes," Durbin told FOX News on Friday. He suggested there could be votes on a number of issues including Iraq war funding, authorization for the war, and troop equipment and training.
Durbin, pressed on whether Democrats intended to stop war funding, said any measures taken will protect troops in combat.
"We will never ever endanger our troops when it comes to funding, period. But if we have to speak to this administration about limiting the escalation of this war, sending more and more soldiers into danger, we will find ways to do that without ever jeopardizing the safety of our troops," Durbin said.
And on the House floor Friday, Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., called the war a failure and urged Congress to look to limiting war funding.
"The Congress must stand ready to use checks and balances necessary to extract ourselves from the morass we face in Iraq. We can do that with more oversight. But it also time to use the appropriations process to end this war," Waxman said.
Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., issued statement saying the Democrats' plan is flawed.
"Congress' attempts to prohibit the movement of such troops by management policies are extremely dangerous," Hunter said. "It could stop reinforcements from arriving in time to stop major casualties in any of a number of scenarios.
"I said on the first day of this debate: The Iraq resolution and the new proposal to cut off troop deployments through the operation and maintenance budget are going to be seen by America's friends, America's enemies and America's troops as the first signals of retreat in the war on terrorism," added Hunter, the top-ranked Republican on the House Armed Services Committee.
And on Thursday, House Minority Leader John Boehner said Murtha's plan would "choke off" money for troops.
"While American troops are fighting radical Islamic terrorists thousands of miles away, it is unthinkable that the United States Congress would move to discredit their mission, cut off their reinforcements, and deny them the resources they need to succeed and return home safely," said Boehner of Ohio.
If Murtha's plan makes it through the House, it would be a blueprint for what the Senate could consider. In an interview posted on MoveCongress.org, Murtha said this week that he plans on introducing his legislation in mid-March. He said that, if approved, it would likely halt the president's plans.
"This vote will limit the options of the president and should stop this surge," Murtha said. If the legislation — that would be part of funding legislation — would make it to the president's desk, there is a possibility the president would veto it.
"The president could veto it, but then he wouldn't have any money," Murtha said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday she supports Murtha's plan.