Abercrombie says forget about Iraq surge funds
The Army falls under his impending House panel chairmanship
WASHINGTON » U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie is warning the Bush administration that the new Democratic-controlled Congress will not appropriate more money for a "surge" of new troops into Iraq.
Abercrombie made his comments two days before President Bush is set to tell the nation about new plans for addressing the Iraq war.
In an interview in his Washington office, Abercrombie said Bush should not expect help from the Democrats, who now control the House and Senate.
"We are not going to fund any surges. We are not going to support expanding this war," Abercrombie said.
The Hawaii Democrat's words have added importance because on Thursday, Abercrombie is expected to be named chairman of the Armed Forces subcommittee dealing with the Army and Air Force.
Congress, Abercrombie said, "will continue to support the troops, which our budget already does."
But Abercrombie warned that "we have no intention of trying to support political policies in the guise of support for the troops."
Congress has approved about $500 billion for Iraq, Afghanistan and other terrorism-fighting efforts. The White House is working on its largest-ever appeal for more war funds -- a record $100 billion, at least. It will be submitted along with Bush's Feb. 5 budget.
The president is expected to address the nation tomorrow at 4 p.m., Hawaii time, with an assessment of the war in Iraq. The speech comes after Bush declined to adopt the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, which among other things had called for more international involvement in the war.
The Associated Press reported yesterday that Bush is expected to announce an increase of up to 20,000 U.S. troops.
Abercrombie says the Army is already stretched and cannot just call up more soldiers. He suggested that Bush could either extend the time in Iraq for soldiers already there and perhaps speed up the training of soldiers here.
"But to say that we are going to take a brand-new or a yet-to-be-selected and trained and equipped force into Iraq, I can't conceive it would be funded," Abercrombie said.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates are to testify before Congress this week.
Yesterday, Abercrombie was particularly critical of Rice, the former national security adviser, whom Abercrombie described as "the most overrated, underperforming individual in executive authority that I have ever seen."
"She constantly gets a pass. Who knows if the whole question of race and gender come into it, but ... I can't account for it, except to say she isn't up to the mark," Abercrombie said. Rice is scheduled to testify before the Senate.
Gates, who succeeded Donald Rumsfeld as secretary of defense, is to testify before the House Armed Services Committee tomorrow.
Abercrombie said as a new subcommittee chairman, he would attend.
"My question for Gates? What do they propose to do now? That was not obvious four years ago, and what will they propose that is different from the wrong path they have been following all these years?" Abercrombie said.