WASHINGTON -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said yesterday that he is backing legislation to cut off almost all money for the war in Iraq by March, further escalating the Democratic confrontation with President Bush over the four-year-old conflict.
Last month, the Senate and House narrowly passed emergency war spending bills that set timelines for withdrawing U.S. troops. Neither measure proposed to cut funding for the war.
Reid, who will co-sponsor the bill with anti-war Sen. Russ Feingold, a Wisconsin Democrat, has never before backed legislation that would use congressional control of the budget to stop paying for the war.
He is likely to have a difficult time rounding up a majority for a bill that could leave Democrats open to charges of abandoning the troops.
But it means that Reid, who has endorsed increasingly bold steps to end the war, will be able to steer the Senate into another debate that highlights Republican support for the unpopular war.
"Congress has a responsibility to end a war that is opposed by the American people and is undermining our national security," Feingold said yesterday. "By ending funding for the president's failed Iraq policy, our bill requires the president to safely redeploy our troops from Iraq."
Democrats say that even with a funding cutoff, troops in the field would continue to receive the equipment they need.
White House spokeswoman Dana Perino criticized Democrats yesterday for the proposals they have made regarding the war.
"There's just these shifting sands when it comes to the Democrats and their decisions," Perino said at her daily briefing with reporters. "It's like a sandstorm."
Bush has pledged to veto any legislation that would limit his administration's conduct of the war. He has repeatedly said he will not sign the war funding bill if it includes a timeline for withdrawing troops.
Democratic leaders in the Senate and House are negotiating a compromise between their war spending measures. Each house has proposed different timelines for withdrawing U.S. troops.