Congress Demands More Rest for Troops

August 12th, 2007 - by admin

Noam N. Levey / Los Angeles Times & Erica Werner / Associated Press – 2007-08-12 21:58:09

Bill Seeks More Rest for Iraq Troops
Noam N. Levey / Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON (August 3, 2007) — House Democrats on Thursday passed a measure to mandate more rest at home for troops serving in Iraq, an attempt to put more pressure on President Bush’s management of the war on the eve of Congress’ summer recess.

The legislation, which passed 229-194 with six Republicans joining virtually all of the chamber’s Democrats to support it, stands little chance of becoming law.

A similar proposal sponsored by Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., was blocked by Senate Republicans in July. And the White House on Thursday issued a veto threat against the House measure.

Throughout much of the year, Democratic Party leaders have promoted measures designed to start a withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. Two weeks ago, Senate Democrats spotlighted their effort with an all-night session before they cut short the debate when Republicans blocked a withdrawal measure. The Senate has put off further votes on the war until after Congress reconvenes in September.

House Democratic leaders this week decided to postpone votes on a troop withdrawal. But congressional Democrats continue to cast themselves as the champions of military service members, many of whom have served multiple tours of duty overseas since the Iraq war began in March 2003.

The House proposal approved Thursday, sponsored by Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Walnut Creek, would prevent the redeployment of active-duty troops to Iraq until they had been stationed at home for the same period of time they served in the war zone.

The proposal would require three times as much rest at home for members of the reserves and National Guard. It also would allow the president to waive the requirements if he certifies to Congress the troops are needed “to meet a threat to the national security interests” of the country.
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Democrat Tauscher: Troops Need More Rest
Erica Werner / Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Democrats on Saturday touted legislation to guarantee troops time at home between deployments to Iraq. In the party’s weekly radio address, Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Calif., criticized President Bush for threatening to veto the bill, contending his administration’s policies on troop deployments have weakened the military.

“The president’s surge has sent many of our Army units to Iraq for the second and third time. We are asking our troops to make heroic sacrifices — yet as soon as they return we rush them back into battle,” said Tauscher, author of the bill that passed the House Aug. 2 on a vote of 229-194.

The measure would require that regular military units returning from the war receive at least as much time at home as they spent in Iraq. Reserve units would get a home stay three times as long as they spent in the war zone.

Under the Pentagon’s current policy, active-duty troops typically serve deployments of up to 15 months, with a year at home in between. National Guard and Reserve ground units generally can be called up for as long as two years, to be followed by six years at home.

Bush’s war adviser, Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute, said Friday the Pentagon needs to reevaluate deployment lengths.

“Come the spring, some variables will have to change — either the degree to which the American ground forces, the Marines and the Army in particular, are deployed around the world to include Iraq, or the length of time they’re deployed in one tour, or the length of time they enjoy at home,” Lute said in an interview on National Public Radio.

Bush complained that Tauscher’s bill would put arbitrary constraints on Pentagon commanders. But Tauscher noted that the measure includes waivers enabling the president to disregard the required intervals between troop deployments in the interest of national security.

“If we are honest about wanting to support our troops, there is no better place to start than with the rest and training they require to complete their mission and return home safely,” said Tauscher.

In the Senate, similar legislation by Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., won a majority vote of 56-41 in July but fell four short of the 60 votes needed to advance.

The vote on Tauscher’s bill shortly before Congress left Washington for its August recess was the latest challenge to Bush from Democrats aiming to end an unpopular war. Democratic leaders plan to renew the challenge in September, when Gen. David Petraeus, the top US commander in Iraq, delivers a long-awaited report on the state of the conflict.

The president vetoed legislation this spring that included a timeline for a troop withdrawal.

Petraeus told lawmakers visiting Iraq this month that a US presence in Iraq is likely to be needed for another nine to 10 years, said Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., who met with the general along with Democrat Tom Allen of Maine and four House Republicans. Petraeus has made similar remarks in the past, noting that the question is how many troops would be needed.

Schakowsky, a member of the Out of Iraq caucus, said she returned from the trip convinced more than ever the US should set a deadline for troop withdrawals.

“Calling for patience, at this point, I don’t believe is going to work with the American people,” she told reporters in a conference call from Germany on Friday.

Copyright 2007, The Associated Press.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.