WASHINGTON - The House's top lawmaker in charge of defense spending said yesterday that he intended to force the closure of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay military prisons and curb U.S. engagement in Iraq. He said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi supported his efforts.
Rep. John P. Murtha (D., Pa.) said Congress should not provide funds for sending more troops overseas until the Bush administration took those steps and others, including restoring the Army's ability to respond to other crises by increasing troop strength of the strategic reserve.
"We have no ability to deploy and sustain a deployment in Iran or Korea, and the enemy knows this," Murtha said.
Murtha, as chairman of the House Defense Appropriations subcommittee, said he would push for a plan to pressure the Bush administration to make the changes he seeks in order to get the money it wants for the war in Iraq. The administration is expected to propose a war-funding request as a supplemental budget bill next month.
Murtha wants President Bush to halt the 21,500-troop increase he announced Wednesday night and to start bringing American forces home. He said he would not cut any funds for those already fighting.
If the full House eventually passes Murtha's plan, the measure still would need approval by the Senate, where Democrats have only a 51-49 majority. It is unclear how much support Murtha's plan would have in the Senate.
The Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo military prisons, where prisoners have been held without charges and abused, need to be closed to restore American credibility, Murtha said. He said he planned to try to limit the troop increase as it takes place over the next four months. He said he thought the increase would not stop sectarian violence in Baghdad.