Vilsack Calls For Cutting Off Funds For War

After the 2004 election it seemed like many Democrats were rushing towards the middle. People spoke of potential centrist candidates such as Tom Vilsack. As public opinion has become clear on getting out of Iraq, Vilsack apparently is no longer concerned about being seen as the centrist alternative. Speaking at the Democratic National Committee, Vilsack took a position beyond that of the other candidates in calling for Congress to cut off funds for the Iraq war:

“Those in Congress who voted for the war, those in Congress who have voted to continue the war, and those in Congress who have funded the war, can surely vote to end the war,” Vilsack told members of the Democratic National Committee during the second day of a presidential candidates’ forum in Washington.

Vilsack’s comments made him the first major presidential candidate to urge Congress to use its spending power under the Constitution to bring U.S. fighting in Iraq to an end. Former Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., the party’s 2004 vice presidential nominee, has called on Congress to use its spending power to block President Bush from adding 21,500 additional U.S. troops to Iraq.

But Vilsack went one step further today, calling on Congress to use the power of the purse to completely end U.S. involvement in the Iraq war.

“Congress has the constitutional responsibility and a moral duty to cut off funding for the status quo,” said Vilsack. “Not a cap — an end. Not eventually — immediately.”

According to a Vilsack aide, the former governor still supports keeping a U.S. troop presence in the northern Kurdish part of the country in an effort to dissuade Iran from moving into any power vacuum created by the end of U.S. military engagement in central Iraq. Asked how many U.S. troops Vilsack would keep in the north, his aide said Vilsack would rely on the advice of U.S. military commanders…

Vilsack’s camp is hoping he will be a more credible messenger on the Iraq war than Edwards or Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., since he is not tainted, as they are, in the eyes of some Iraq war opponents, by having voted to authorize the use of force in 2002.

Vilsack’s aides are hoping to differentiate him from Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., the consistent Iraq war opponent who is still serving his first term in the U.S. Senate, by pointing to Vilsack’s experience as a chief executive during eight years as governor of Iowa.

Without identifying anyone by name, Vilsack used the non-binding nature of the Iraq resolution that the Senate plans to debate next week to imply that Clinton and Obama are ineffectual on the war.

“What is the point of a non-binding resolution?” Vilsack told ABC News. “Does that save a single life?”

Update: The Washington Post reviews the statements of several Democratic candidates at the DNC meeting, noting that those not in Congress are pressing Clinton and Obama to do more. Among others urging stronger action from Congress is Bill Richardson:

“As someone who served in Congress for 14 years, I know the power they hold, should they choose to wield it,” New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson told the DNC yesterday at the Hilton Washington hotel. “The Congress passed a resolution authorizing war. They need to pass another one that overturns that authorization and brings our troops home by the end of the calendar year.”

Update II: Discussion of Obama’s speech here.

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