SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) - If President Bush vetoes an Iraq war
spending bill as promised, Congress quickly will provide the money
without the withdrawal timeline the White House objects to because
no lawmaker "wants to play chicken with our troops," Sen. Barack
Obama said Sunday.
"My expectation is that we will continue to try to ratchet up
the pressure on the president to change course," the Democratic
presidential candidate said in an interview with The Associated
Press. "I don't think that we will see a majority of the Senate
vote to cut off funding at this stage."
Obama, D-Ill., has made his opposition to the war a centerpiece
of his campaign and has used it to differentiate himself from rival
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., who voted to authorize the use
of force in Iraq.
In the interview, Obama pointed to a speech he gave five months
before the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003. In that address, Obama
warned of grave consequences if the U.S. went into Iraq.
Obama noted on Sunday that the speech came about the same time
the Senate was considering the use of force authorization.
"I think that it's important for voters to get a sense of how
the next president will make decisions in a foreign policy arena,"
said Obama, who is in his first term as a senator.
"There are a number of senators who have acknowledged they got
bad information or might have made a different decision. What I've
tried to suggest is the speech I gave five months before we went to
war shows how I think about the problem," he said.
Clinton has refused to repudiate her vote but has criticized the
conduct of the war, saying "if we knew then what we know now" she
never would have voted as she did.
Given that Bush is determined to veto a timetable for
withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq, Congress has little realistic
choice but to approve money for the war, Obama said.
"I think that nobody wants to play chicken with our troops on
the ground," said Obama. "I do think a majority of the Senate has
now expressed the belief that we need to change course in Iraq.
"Obviously we're constrained by the fact that a commander in
chief who also has veto power has the option of ignoring that
position," Obama said.
The Senate last week approved a bill providing $123 billion to
pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It would order Bush to
begin withdrawing troops within 120 days of passage while setting a
nonbinding goal of ending combat operations by March 31, 2008.
The House's version, passed March 23, would require that combat
troops come home from Iraq before September 2008 - or earlier if
the Baghdad government did not meet certain requirements.
The Senate is on vacation now for a week and the House for two
weeks, so it will take time for a compromise to pass both chambers
and get to the White House. If Bush vetoes the measure, the new
bill that Obama describes would have to be written and put to
The senator said it is up to war opponents to be vocal about
"If the president vetoes this, the American people have to
continue to put pressure on their representatives so that at some
point we may be able to get a veto-proof majority for moving this
war in a different direction," the senator said.
On other topics, Obama:
-Said the fight over eight fired U.S. attorneys does not mean
the system of appointing federal prosecutors needs to be changed.
"Initially they are political appointees, but once they are in
place, once they are appointed, there's been a hands-off approach
by the White House." He said the showdown today came about because
the White House would not allow that independence.
-Rejected suggestions he is offering more style than substance
and lacks the experience to be a serious candidate for president.
"By January if people were still making these criticisms, I think
we'd be concerned. It's eight weeks after I announced and I feel
-Was vague about whether universal health coverage would require
higher taxes. "I'm committed to making sure we find those
resources," Obama said. "It is possible that we are going to need
additional resources at least on the front end. I think you can
save that money on the back end." He is meeting with expects this
week as he develops a health care proposal.
Without giving specifics, Obama said he would offer a system
that provides universal care and cuts costs for employers by
allowing small businesses to pool together.