House Democratic Survey Links War Funding to Troop Reduction

A majority of Americans favor congressional rejection of the Bush administration’s Iraq war supplemental request either outright or with the caveat that the funds be used to redeploy troops and contractors, says a new poll commissioned by antiwar Rep. Barbara Lee.

The poll is the latest attempt by Reps. Lee and Lynn Woolsey, both of California, and other Democratic House members to force President Bush's hand in Iraq. Lee and Woolsey were among 133 House members — 126 of them Democrats — to vote against the initial authorization of force five years ago on Wednesday.

The poll, commissioned by Lee’s political action committee, found that 46 percent of respondents said Congress should approve the supplemental request under the condition that funds be spent only to protect and redeploy troops and contractors, rather than to continue the war. An additional 24 percent responded that Congress should vote against the supplemental unconditionally. Twenty-two percent of respondents said Congress should approve the funding request with no strings attached.

"The president wants to pretend that Congress’ only choice is to provide the funds he has requested unconditionally or 'cut off funding for our troops.’ That is just not true," Lee said at a press conference on Capitol Hill.

Of the 1,000 survey participants, 49 percent identified themselves as Democrats, 13 percent as independents and 33 percent as Republicans. The single-question survey read: "President Bush wants Congress to approve a $200 billion dollar request to continue funding the Iraq war and keep the troops in Iraq. Should Congress: Vote against the $200 billion funding request; vote for the $200 billion funding request without conditions; OR vote for the $200 billion funding request but specify that it can be used ONLY to protect U.S. troops and contractors and to bring them home, rather than to continue the war."

Lake Research Partners, led by Democratic pollster Celinda Lake, conducted the questionnaire between Sept. 20-23. It had a 3.1 percent margin of error.

Lee, co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said the findings of the poll indicate strong public support to "fully fund the safe, timely, responsible redeployment of our troops and contractors from Iraq."

Woolsey said that through "the power of the purse," Congress has the ability to change course in Iraq accordingly. She said she, Lee and another California Democrat, Rep. Maxine Waters, co-authored a joint letter to Bush stating Congress’s intention to withhold money used to fund combat operations.

Congress has not decided upon a timeframe for a U.S. troop withdrawal, and recently turned its attention away from legislation aimed at that goal. But House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey also said he will not bring up a supplemental war funding request unless it has provisions for withdrawal, and certainly not before next year.

Woolsey said members of her caucus are working with the Democratic leadership to get troops out as soon as possible.

"April ’08 was our original date; I’d rather have them home by Christmas, but it gets less practical every day," said Woolsey. The president announced last month that some troops will be home by Christmas, though the bulk of the 168,000 will remain at least until next summer.

"We really already have a blueprint of how to implement the findings of the survey," said Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, citing the United Kingdom’s plan to draw down its troop levels by 50 percent over the next eight months. About 5,500 British troops are in Iraq.

"We are not calling for a precipitous withdrawal. We are asking for a fully-funded reduction," Doggett said.

Lee added that the goal is to bring troops home in a "safe, orderly manner as quickly as possible" without spending new money on combat operations. She cited Pentagon reports that the current war chest will be able to fund combat operations in Iraq until February.