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Sen Russ Feingold: Ratcheting up the pressure

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid did a great job getting the supplemental spending bill through the Senate last week. We were able to pass a bill with tough, binding language that forces the President to begin redeploying our troops from Iraq in 120 days. But our work is far from over – we have got to keep pushing to end the terrible mistake in Iraq. That next step has got to be Congress using its power of the purse to end the war.

I was extremely pleased to announce the Feingold/Reid bill this week, which many of you may already know something about. When the Senate reconvenes next week, we will introduce legislation that uses Congress’s constitutional spending power to force the President to safely redeploy troops from Iraq by March 31, 2008, with some narrow exceptions. By agreeing to cosponsor this measure, and by saying that he will work to make sure this bill gets a vote before the end of May, Harry Reid has again shown his strong commitment to pushing for an end to U.S. military involvement in Iraq.

I happened to watch Senator Reid’s Nevada press conference on CSPAN and I encourage all of you to watch it too. It is worth spending a few minutes to see how deeply felt Senator Reid’s opposition to the Iraq war really is.

Already, we are hearing the same tired rhetoric about how ending funding for the war is somehow the same as cutting funding for the troops. Unfortunately, we don’t just hear it from the right. I’ve heard some of my Democratic colleagues make the same mischaracterizations. But the fact of the matter is this measure will in no way endanger the troops. I think Duke Law professor and former acting Solicitor General of the United States, Walter Dellinger, said it best when he testified on this issue before the Senate Judiciary Committee in January. By ending funding for the war, Professor Dellinger said:

"...there would not be one penny less for salary of the troops. There would not be one penny less for benefits of the troops. There would not be one penny less for weapons or ammunition. There would not be one penny less for supplies or support. Those troops will simply be redeployed to other areas of where the Armed Forces are utilized, and that it seems to me is fully within the authority of Congress to do."

What a difference an election makes. In the last three months, we’ve made some serious progress toward ending our military involvement in Iraq after years of inaction by the Republican-controlled Senate. While the Senate’s supplemental spending bill didn’t go as far as I would like, it took a significant step toward ending the President’s failed Iraq policy.

If the President vetoes the emergency supplemental bill, it will only show more Americans and more members of Congress how detached his administration is from the reality of the situation in Iraq – and from the reality here at home, too. We will not be deterred by a veto or by the self-deluding rhetoric coming from die-hard supporters of the President’s misguided Iraq policy. We already have strong support for this latest effort from Senators Leahy, Boxer, Kerry, and Dodd. We will only work harder to act on the ever-growing consensus that ending our military involvement in Iraq is the right thing to do for our troops, our national security, and our ongoing fight against the global terrorist networks that threaten the safety of all Americans.

As Senators and Representatives meet to draft the final version of the supplemental bill, Harry Reid and I are already working on the next step -- using Congress’s power of the purse to bring an end to our current open-ended involvement in Iraq.

Update: Bob Geiger has been doing a great job of keeping tabs on the bill Harry Reid and I will introduce next week.

Update II: Thanks everyone for your great support and enthusiasm. A lot of you have asked about what happens once the President vetoes the supplemental. Before getting that far, we should wait to see if the President actually vetoes funds for the troops. Both the Senate and the House have passed bills that give the troops the funding they need while also giving the American people what they are demanding – a change of course in Iraq. It’s incredible to me that this President would veto funds for the troops because Congress chose to acknowledge the will of the American people. It just doesn’t make sense.

Heather, I’m very sorry to hear about your husband. Please accept my condolences. We’re all grateful for his service. As far as the MCA goes, I’m already working with Senators Dodd and others to restore the writ of habeas corpus, a cornerstone of our constitutional system.

Miss Blue, we don’t have a vote count yet since we just announced we’d be introducing the bill but we’ve already received great support. In addition to Senators Reid, Kerry, Leahy, Dodd and Boxer, Senators Kennedy and Sanders have indicated support. To have this kind of backing before the bill is even introduced is very encouraging. I encourage everyone to let your Senators know how you feel about this and if they’ve already announced their support, I’m sure they’d welcome a call just the same.

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US Senator from Wisconsin

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