Bush Warns US Congress Against Touching His War Budget

WASHINGTON - US President George W. Bush warned his Democratic opponents Monday that he will fight any attempt to use the debate on war funding to undercut his controversial troop "surge" in Iraq.

Speaking to a gathering of US state governors at the White House, Bush said he expected a "healthy debate" on the war but said he was concerned about any move by Congress to limit funding.

Bush said he would be "strongly defending the budgets we send up to Congress, to make sure those troops who are in harm`s way have the resources and that we have the flexibility necessary to ... execute the plan we`ve laid out."

Congress must vote in the coming weeks on Bush`s request for 93.4 billion dollars in supplemental funding this year for the "war on terror," and a request for 141.7 billion dollars to cover military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2008.

Some Democrats, who now hold a majority in Congress, see the debate as an opportunity to block a military buildup in Iraq that they regard as an escalation of the war.

They have taken aim at the deployment of more than 21,500 troops in addition to the 140,000 already there. Bush insists this "surge" is needed to stop the sectarian bloodshed and secure Baghdad and western al-Anbar province.

Polls show that a majority of the public wants to begin withdrawing US forces from Iraq, and Democrats say that their victory in November congressional elections gave them a mandate to bring that about.

Bush told the governors that his plan was "more likely to succeed than any of the alternatives that were presented to me," and that a premature withdrawal would lead to "chaos."

The left wing of the Democratic party believes that cutting financing for the war is the best way to stop the president.

The Democrats also are maneuvering to revoke or rewrite the 2002 resolution that authorized Bush to go to war.

However, Democrats are divided. Many worry that they will be accused in the debate of denying troops money needed to protect them.

Bush played with that idea on Monday: "I think it`s important for people to understand the consequences of not giving our troops the resources necessary to do the job," he said.

The White House also signaled it would fight any attempt to rewrite the 2002 war resolution.

"The fact is, when you go in to try to revisit it ... it may even have effectively the same goal as cutting off funding," said White House spokesman Tony Snow.

"It sends a sign of uncertainty to men and women who are deployed. In many ways, you`ve got to ask yourself, `What is the point of doing this?`"

The debate on the war begins this week with testimony to congressional committees from Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

But the 2007 budget is not expected to go to the full House and Senate for debate before March 18.

Meanwhile, the Senate could take up a resolution that would limit the US military`s mission in Iraq to protecting the country`s borders, training Iraqi troops and containing extremist forces.

Senator Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Sunday the goal would be to withdraw most US combat troops by March 2008, as proposed by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group led by former secretary of state James Baker and former congressman Lee Hamilton.

But Democrats are divided on a timetable for withdrawal, beginning with those who are running for president in 2008.

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