House GOP leader says support for war has its limits

Published May 7, 2007

WASHINGTON - The House Republican leader said Sunday that GOP support could waver if President Bush's Iraq war policy does not succeed by the fall.

House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said that Bush's troop increase deserves a chance and that funding should continue even if benchmarks for success are not met.

A senior House Democrat said it would be "ridiculous" not to condition war money upon a troop withdrawal.

"We don't even have all of the 30, 000 additional troops in Iraq yet, so we're supporting the president. We want this plan to have a chance of succeeding, " Boehner said.

"Over the course of the next three to four months, we'll have some idea how well the plan's working. Early signs are indicating there is clearly some success on a number of fronts, " he said.

But, he added, "By the time we get to September or October, members are going to want to know how well this is working, and if it isn't, what's Plan B."

Thus far, Republicans have stood behind the president's increasingly unpopular war policies, including the troop increase and an open-ended war commitment.

Yet Boehner's comments were an acknowledgment of the concern expressed by some lawmakers in private that their support could further damage the party, which lost control of Congress in the November elections.

The new Democratic leadership is pushing to begin pulling troops out of Iraq.

"It would be ridiculous to think that we're going to just drop this fight, " said Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel of New York, chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee. "This is not our fight. This is the American people's fight. They asked us to send a message to the president."

"We've got to shake that White House until the people of the United States are heard, " Rangel said. "Sure, we've got to have some restrictions on the money."

Last week, Bush vetoed a $124-billion bill to provide money for Iraq and Afghanistan operations in part because it required troops to begin returning home by Octtober. He said the fixed date is unworkable.

Top White House aides are negotiating with Democratic leaders on a new war spending bill.

A Democratic presidential candidate, former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, argued against negotiating and said lawmakers should keep sending Bush the same bill.

Boehner appeared on Fox News Sunday, while Edwards was on This Week on ABC. Rangel spoke on Face the Nation on CBS.