WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Delayed U.S. congressional passage of funding for the Iraq war could mean extended deployments for troops serving there as cash to train their replacements dries up, a top White House aide said on Sunday.
White House counselor Dan Bartlett criticized Congress for going on recess before finishing the wartime supplemental bill, which President Bush has vowed to veto if it sets a timetable for pulling U.S. combat troops out of Iraq.
“By mid-May, troops in Iraq, serving Iraq, would potentially have to have their deployments extended because they’re not getting their job done right here,” Bartlett told ABC’s “This Week” television program.
He cited remarks by Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, to a House of Representatives panel on Thursday that after April 15, without emergency funding, the Army would have to begin curtailing some troop training.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said that if the funds were not approved by May 15, the Army might have to extend some soldiers’ tours, because other units would not be ready, and reduce equipment repair work, among other things.
Bartlett said those concerns were valid despite a Congressional Research Service memo dated March 28 and sent to the Senate Budget Committee that said the Army could finance war operations through most of July.
“What they said is that there would have to be moving of accounts, moving of money through accounts,” he said of the CRS report, which some critics said undermined Bush’s assertion that Congress was harming the war effort by holding up funds.
Sen. Richard Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, told the ABC program that “Congress will provide all the funds that our troops need, on a timely basis.”
Bush requested $100 billion in emergency funds in early February and Congress is in the process of writing bills providing more money for the war than the president requested.
But Democrats have added conditions to the money, including setting timetables for withdrawing all combat troops from Iraq. Bush wants the money without the conditions and has threatened to veto either bill passed by the Senate or the House.
Durbin said bills passed in the Senate and House containing a timetable “come to the same conclusion: It’s time for American troops to start coming back home in an orderly basis. We believe that this war should come to an end.”
He added: “The American people agree with us.”
Bartlett reiterated the administration’s opposition to setting a timetable for withdrawing troops from Iraq and said Bush would veto the legislation.
“He will veto the bill if they bring it to him, and then, hopefully, we can set aside the politics and get a bill that funds our troops,” Bartlett said.