Feeding The Troops

Feeding The Troops
April 13th, 2007  
Team Infidel

Topic: Feeding The Troops

Feeding The Troops
April 23, 2007 Notebook

By James Carney
Budget showdowns have a way of inspiring leaders to predict national calamity should their side not prevail. In 1995, some Clinton allies warned that the elderly would be forced to eat dog food if the government shut down. Now President Bush and Republicans warn that troops are at risk of assorted deprivations because Democrats passed House and Senate funding bills tied to withdrawal from Iraq in 2008. Bush is sure to veto them. He's right that without congressional funding, military operations would eventually have to be scaled back. But calamity is not exactly imminent. The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service recently found that the Pentagon could finance the war at least through the end of June by shifting existing funds. Then there's the so-called "Feed and Forage" Act, a Civil War--era law that lets the President incur debt, without congressional approval, for such wartime troop expenses as "clothing, subsistence, fuel, quarters, transportation and medical supplies."
And yet the Democrats' strategy is politically risky. Bush is deeply unpopular, and so is the Iraq war. But Americans remain understandably sensitive to troop needs. Which is why experts at the Center for American Progress (CAP), a liberal-leaning think tank, are busy supplying congressional leaders with ideas for a postveto compromise. The most promising notion--funding the war in three-month tranches, no withdrawal timetables attached--would allow opponents of Bush's policy to "gradually ratchet up the pressure" on Bush, says CAP senior fellow Brian Katulis, while avoiding an all-or-nothing showdown. After all, the Feed and Forage Act can provide only so much political cover. "We have some time," says a Democrat involved in the search for a legislative strategy. "But we can't be in the position of defending ourselves with a law that dates back to 1861."

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