Pelosi Tells Bush to Justify Any Iraq Escalation

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was on CBS's Face The Nation Sunday morning and she has made remarkably clear that Democrats will likely withhold any funding for the escalation of the Iraq war that George W. Bush is expected to announce in the coming week. Speaking forcefully, but carefully, Pelosi laid out a Democratic agenda that defines her parameters as in line with what the vast majority of Americans believe about what she called "a war without end."

"If the president wants to add to this mission, he is going to have to justify it," said Pelosi, speaking to host Bob Schieffer. "And this is new for him because up until now the Republican Congress has given him a blank check with no oversight, no standards, no conditions. And we’ve gone into this situation, which is a war without end, which the American people have rejected."

"If the president chooses to escalate the war, in his budget request we want to see a distinction between what is there to support the troops who are there now. The American people and the Congress support those troops. We will not abandon them."

That last part is a critical distinction for Pelosi to make because, as we all know, most Republicans will use any negative response to a troop surge to paint Democrats as unpatriotic and unsupportive of the troops in Iraq. The House Speaker could not possibly have been more clear that she will never block funding for the troops already on active duty in Iraq, but that Bush, for the first time ever, will have to justify and get consensus from Congress on any escalation to the war.

Pelosi also made the point that she supports expanding the overall size of the U.S. military -- but to address how stretched the military is because of the Iraq war and the extent to which it's made us less safe for any other defense imperatives that may arise.

"Democrats do support increasing the size of the Army by 30,000, the Marines by 10,000 to make sure we’re able to protect the American people," said Pelosi, adding that it is important to protect all of our security interests "...wherever they may occur. That’s different, though, from adding troops to Iraq."

"The president wants to escalate a war where his generals are telling him that the additional troops will not be effective... and then again, ignoring the strong message of the American people."

More than anything, Pelosi's strong words underscore an ugly truth that the White House is now going to have to deal with: The days of Bush's absolute rule under a Republican Congress are over.

"We will always support the troops who are there," said Speaker Pelosi. "If the president wants to expand the mission, that’s a conversation he has to have with the Congress of the United States."

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