At a hearing on Iraq today convened by the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Congressman Jack Murtha offered a preview of how he plans to rein in the Bush Administration, from the perch of his chairmanship of the Defense Subcommittee on the House Appropriations Committee.
Murtha announced his intention to use the power of the purse try and close US prisons at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, eliminate the signing statements President Bush uses to secretly expand executive power and restrict the building of permanent bases in Iraq.
And starting February 17, Murtha will begin holding "extensive hearings" to block an escalation of the war in Iraq and ultimately redeploy US troops out of the conflict. Murtha predicts that a non-binding resolution criticizing Bush's expansion of the war would pass the Congress by a two to one vote. But he believes that only money, not words, will get the President's attention.
When he receives the Bush Administration's $100 billion supplemental spending request for Iraq on February 5, Murtha says "they'll have to justify every cent they want." He'll insist that no money be allocated for an escalation unless the military can meet normal readiness levels. "We should not spend money to send people overseas unless they replenish the strategic reserve," Murtha says. He expects to have one hundred and twenty days to act before the Administration deploys the second phase of additional troops to Iraq. "If he wants to veto the bill," Murtha says of Bush, "he won't have any money."
Asked whether Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi supports his plans, Murtha responded: "Absolutely."
Allies of the President claim that the war effort should not be "micromanaged." But Murtha says that's exactly what is necessary as the US reaches its fourth year in Iraq. "The Defense Department needs to be micromanaged," he says. "They have been out of control."