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Levin: Time-limited funding best hope to change US war policy

Bush's $46 billion request for Iraq and Afghanistan offers an opening, says the head of the Senate Armed Services committee.

By Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / October 25, 2007

Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI)

Andy Nelson / The Christian Science Monitor

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The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Carl Levin (D) of Michigan, is engaged in two high-profile battles.

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He is leader of the opposition to President Bush's handling of the Iraq war. And he is a very public spokesman for Michigan's efforts to end New Hampshire's long-standing status as the site of the nation's first presidential primary.

Efforts to correct what he sees as flaws in handling of the Iraq war and what he calls New Hampshire's "cockamamie" lock on the presidential primary schedule dominated Levin's meeting with reporters at a Monitor-sponsored breakfast Wednesday.

Senator Levin says he has disagreed with almost every aspect of the Bush administration's policy in Iraq since the war began. But, as he noted Wednesday, he and like-minded colleagues are "still working on a formula that can get us to 60" – the number of votes needed to cut off a Senate filibuster and enact legislation that could change US policy in Iraq.

Levin said he sees an opening in Mr. Bush's request Monday for an additional $46 billion to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The funding request would bring total expected spending for the 2008 fiscal year to $196.4 billion. Rather than granting the full year's money, Congress could provide the money in several segments, Levin said.

"The best hope that we have, I believe, of forcing a change or putting more pressure on the president for change ... is if the next appropriation bill, which will be a supplemental appropriation bill, is time-limited, so that it would have to be renewed after, let's say, May or June.... That would put some pressure on the president to have a timetable to move this process along with greater certainty, to end the open-endedness that is such a damaging feature of the president's policy."

Among Levin's objections to the war in Iraq is what he termed "an ethical issue" about the inequality of sacrifice in the conflict. "There are a lot of reasons this war is a mistake. One of them is we didn't pay for it," he added, "Who is paying for it? The very people who are fighting are paying for it. They are paying for it on the ground with their lives. They are going to pay for it financially when they get home. Shame on the administration for not funding the war properly, for talking about tax cuts in the middle of a war."

The Armed Services chairman also criticized the Bush administration's handling of relations with Iran. The president warned at a press conference last week that Iran would be increasing the risk of "World War III" if it acquired nuclear weapons. Vice President Cheney said Sunday that if Iran stays on its current course of seeking nuclear capability, "the international community is prepared to impose serious consequences."

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