Donald Lambro

WASHINGTON -- If you're wondering what happened to all that sound and fury from the Democrats over its troop-withdrawal bills, they took off for an Easter break, leaving their unfinished business behind them.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi was touring the Middle East, pretending to be Secretary of State. Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were off in search of more campaign money to bankroll their presidential ambitions. Most of the other Democrats were back home boasting about all that pork they stuffed into the emergency defense supplemental bill that is supposed to provide money just for our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Some emergency. The differing versions will have to be reconciled in a House and Senate conference before a final vote takes place sometime after the "we're in no hurry" Democratic-run Congress gets back from its spring vacation.

U.S. military commanders in charge of the war say they will be running out of funds by the end of April at the earliest or by June at the latest. But Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid is in no rush, pointing to a dubious Congressional Research Service report that says the military doesn't need new funding until July. Tell that to the troops who know otherwise.

But the final bill that emerges from conference isn't going anywhere. It will be vetoed by President Bush, as he has warned early on, and that will mean the Democrats will have to start over with yet another emergency bill that could take weeks more.

If all this sounds like deliberate legislative stalling and foot dragging by the Democrats on funding the war and our troops, that's exactly what it is. They acknowledge they do not have the votes to cut off funds for the war, despite their majority in both houses of Congress, so they are doing the next best thing -- delay the money as long as possible.

House Ways and Means chairman Charlie Rangel shot down a funding cutoff on "Meet the Press" Sunday when Tim Russert asked him, "If you want to stop the war, why not just simply cut all funding?"

"Because you don't have the votes to do it. There's some people who believe that if you cut all the funding off, you leave our soldiers and military people exposed," Rangel replied.

He even admitted Democrats originally didn't have the votes for the bill that eventually passed in the House. Pelosi and other Democratic leaders stuffed it with $20 billion worth of pure pork "because they needed the (Democratic) votes," Rangel said.

"That bill, we lost so many Democrats because people thought we went too far and others because we didn't go far enough," he said.


Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.