Liberal Dems back party's war bill
By ANNE FLAHERTY, Associated Press Writer 2 hours, 8 minutes ago
WASHINGTON - Three leading House anti-war Democrats said they now back a $50 billion bill that funds the war but calls for most troops to come home by December 2008. Their support paves the way for the bill's passage Wednesday.
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The trio, California Reps. Lynn Woolsey, Barbara Lee and Maxine Waters, represent a liberal anti-war caucus that last week expressed opposition to the measure on the grounds it was too soft and did not demand an end to combat.
The bill requires that President Bush initiate troop withdrawals within 30 days of its passage with the goal of bringing home most soldiers and Marines by Dec. 15, 2008.
The White House said Bush would veto the bill if it comes to him. Presidential spokeswoman Dana Perino called the legislation the "height of irresponsibility," charging Democrats with merely trying to "appease radical groups" such as MoveOn.org and Code Pink.
"Once again, the Democratic leadership is starting this debate with a flawed strategy, including a withdrawal date for Iraq, despite the gains our military has made over the past year, despite having dozens of similar votes in the past that have failed, and despite their pledge to support the troops," she said. "Democrats believe that these votes will somehow punish the president, but it actually punishes the troops."
A provision added to the bill, to satisfy liberal caucus members, states that the primary purpose of the $50 billion included in the bill "should be to transition the mission" and redeploy troops in Iraq, "not to extend or prolong the war."
The measure is largely a symbolic jab at Bush, who has already begun withdrawing some troops but fiercely rejects the notion of setting a timetable for the war.
"While this bill is not perfect, it is the strongest Iraq bill to date," the Democratic trio wrote in a joint statement. "This is the first time that this Congress has put forth a bill that ties funding to the responsible redeployment of our troops, and it also includes language mandating a start date for the president to begin the redeployment of our brave men and women."
Woolsey, Lee and Waters said they remained disappointed that the 2008 date was a nonbinding goal that Bush could ignore. But, they said they realized the provision made it more likely that the Senate could pass it.
"This is a concrete step in the right direction, and an important marker for this Congress to lay down," they wrote.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., told reporters on Wednesday that he anticipates the bill will pass.
Similar legislation has repeatedly passed along party lines in the House only to sink in the Senate, where Democrats hold a razor-thin majority and 60 votes are needed to overcome procedural hurdles.
It is expected that if the measure fails in the Senate, Democrats will not consider Bush's war spending request until next year.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Tuesday that if it does pass and Bush rejects the bill, "then the president won't get his $50 billion."
The money included in the bill represents about a quarter of Bush's $196 billion war spending request for the 2008 budget year, which began Oct. 1.
Democrats say the military won't need the money until early next year. Until then, the Pentagon can transfer money from less urgent accounts or fourth quarter spending to cover costs, they say.
The Pentagon says moving money around is a bureaucratic nightmare that costs more in the long-run. And if taken to the extreme, the military would eventually have to freeze contracts or lay off civilian workers to ensure troops in combat have what they need.
In another provision sure to draw White House opposition, the House bill would require that all government interrogators rely on the Army's field manual. The Army's manual was updated in 2006 to specifically ban the military from using aggressive interrogation techniques, such as waterboarding.
The bill also requires that the president certify to Congress 15 days in advance that a unit being sent into combat is "fully mission capable," although Bush could waive that requirement if necessary.