Bill to provide supplemental defense funding encounters delays

A spokesman for the House Appropriations Committee says the measure will not be taken up Thursday, as lawmakers originally intended.

Senate Democrats are mounting an effort to prevent President Bush from launching a surprise attack on Iran, while their House counterparts are still wrestling with how to address President Bush's handling of the Iraq war in the supplemental spending request and might delay action on the measure until next week.

Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., will introduce legislation that would prevent Bush from spending money for military action against Iran without congressional authorization. The bill would stipulate that the 2002 resolution authorizing the invasion of Iraq does not apply to Iran, according to Webb's aides.

They said Webb would introduce the stand-alone measure in a floor speech, then seek to attach it as an amendment to the $100 billion supplemental appropriations bill to be taken up in the Senate later this month.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John Murtha, D-Pa., are reportedly considering a similar amendment in the House.

Webb, a decorated Vietnam veteran and opponent of the Iraq war, has worried aloud that an accidental hostile encounter between U.S. Navy ships and Iranian vessels within the tight confines of the Persian Gulf might trigger a war and render Congress a bystander in the conflict.

Democrats favor a diplomatic solution to the emerging crisis over Iran's nuclear capabilities but reportedly do not want to place outright restrictions on Bush's military options for fear of being portrayed as weak on defense. Requiring him to at least ask permission for a strike is seen as a politically safe approach.

Meanwhile, the timetable for the House to take up the emergency Iraq war funding supplemental continues to slip. With talks to appease factions of the majority continuing, a spokesman for the House Appropriations Committee said the measure will not be taken up Thursday, as lawmakers originally intended.

The idea of giving Bush a way out of readiness restrictions by adding a waiver process has angered anti-war Democrats, but it is a possibility as leaders are looking to shore up conservative Democratic support and possibly pull votes from Republicans.

House Republican leaders have promised to push for GOP members to oppose the bill if it includes any language that ties Bush's hands or includes additional funding unrelated to the war effort.