MELISSA BLOCK, host:
Arkansas Senator Mark Pryor is one of the two Democrats who voted against the non-binding resolution earlier this month.
That resolution supported a troop withdrawal from Iraq. Now with the funding bill that includes the withdrawal goal of next March, Senator Pryor says he wants the withdrawal deadline to be kept secret. Senator Pryor joins us from Capitol Hill. Senator, thanks for being with us.
Senator MARK PRYOR (Democrat, Arkansas): Thank you.
BLOCK: And why don't you explain your rationale behind this plan that would classify the timetable for withdrawal?
Sen. PRYOR: Well, I actually support a timetable, but I just believe it should be classified. The concern I have is that if it's not classified, if it's a public timetable, it might actually do more harm than good to our troops down on the ground in Iraq.
BLOCK: Well, who would know if it were classified? Who would know what the timetable was, and how would you try to keep it secret?
Sen. PRYOR: Well, certainly the administration would know, the Pentagon would know, members of Congress would know, both Houses, and I assume, because of the working relationship with our military and Iraq's military and our civilian people in Iraq - civilian people - they might know or at least might have a sense of what that classified information may be. But like I said, I support a timetable. I think that that's something that this administration has been very reluctant to present to the Congress. So my proposal would be to require them to come to the Congress with a classified plan, and so far the White House has been very reluctant to do that.
BLOCK: That sounds like a lot of people who would know the classified details of what this is. How confident are you that you would be able to keep it classified, keep it secret?
Sen. PRYOR: Well, I'm confident. Congress, we handle classified information all the time. I'm on the Armed Services Committee. We all do have the credentials to sit through classified hearings and ask questions in a classified manner.
BLOCK: And a lot of that information does leak?
Sen. PRYOR: Well, if you - I mean, with all due respect, if you look at the leaks so far in the last couple of years, they haven't been coming from Congress. They have been coming from another branch of government.
BLOCK: Well, if your proposal to classify the timetable, if that is not in the funding bill, will you vote for it? Will the Democrats have your vote?
Sen. PRYOR: I will vote for the funding bill in the end because I support the troops and, you know, I don't want to hold hostage the equipment to a difference between the House and Senate and maybe the White House. So I'm going to support this in the end.
BLOCK: When you say you worry that a public timetable for withdrawal would be damaging to troops on the ground, how would it be damaging?
Sen. PRYOR: Well, I think that if - anytime you telegraph to the other side what you're going to do, I think that they can start to plan accordingly. What I think we should do and should have been doing over the last couple of years there is we should have been doing everything we can to turn more and more responsibility over to the Iraqi government and to the Iraqi people. But at the same time, in my view, a public timetable does not help circumstances on the ground in Iraq and it's probably not helpful for the future of Iraq.
BLOCK: But at the same time, you would support the bill that would include that timetable, even though you have these concerns about being damaging to the troops.
Sen. PYRON: Well, I do support the legislation overall because I believe we need to fund our troops there. I think we need the body armor, we need the armored Humvees, we need the ammunition. I don't want to be in a position where we're cutting funds to the troops while they're in the field. So I may lose this battle, may win this battle, but regardless of how this one particular issue works out, I am for, overall, the supplemental.
BLOCK: How do you think this issue is playing back home?
Sen. PYRON: People that I talked to in Arkansas, they've been fairly pleased overall with my position. I think if you ran an opinion poll in Arkansas, most people would want us out of Iraq. But you really can't base military decisions and strategic decisions based on opinion polls, because the situation in Iraq is much more complicated than what you can pick up on an opinion poll. I have a lot of people in the military in Arkansas who support me, a lot of National Guard, a lot of Reserve, a lot of active duty there. And I think to the person, everyone I've talked and every family I've talked to, they appreciate my position on this.
BLOCK: Senator Pryor, thanks for being with us.
Sen. PYRON: Thank you very, very much.
BLOCK: That's Senator Mark Pryor, Democrat of Arkansas.
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