View Full Version : Dems Set War Bill Without Iraq Timeline, That's Not What Pelosi Said Yesterday

05-21-2007, 08:19 PM
Dems set war bill without Iraq timeline


By DAVID ESPO, AP Special Correspondent 1 hour, 1 minute ago

WASHINGTON - In grudging concessions to President Bush, Democrats intend to draft an Iraq war-funding bill without a timeline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops and shorn of billions of dollars in spending on domestic programs, officials said Monday.

The legislation would include the first federal minimum wage increase in more than a decade, a top priority for the Democrats who took control of Congress in January, the officials added.

While details remain subject to change, the measure is designed to close the books by Friday on a bruising veto fight between Bush and the Democratic-controlled Congress over the war. It would provide funds for military operations in Iraq through Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year.

Democrats in both houses are expected to seek other opportunities later this year to challenge Bush's handling of the unpopular conflict.

Democratic officials stressed the legislation was subject to change. They spoke on condition of anonymity, saying they were not authorized to discuss provisions before a planned presentation to members of the party's rank and file later in the day.

Democrats in Congress have insisted for months they would not give Bush a blank check for his war policies, and officials said the legislation is expected to include political and military goals for the Iraqi government to meet toward establishment of a more democratic society.

Failure to make progress toward the goals could cost the Iraqis some of the reconstruction aid the United States has promised, although it was not clear whether Democrats intended to give Bush power to order the aid to be spent regardless of progress.

Several officials said it was possible that Democrats would attempt to draft a second bill, to include much of the domestic spending that Bush and congressional Republicans have said they oppose.

Either way, Democratic leaders have said they hope to clear a war spending bill through both houses of Congress and send it to Bush's desk by week's end. They added the intention was to avoid a veto.

Bush vetoed one bill this spring after Democrats included a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops in Iraq, and Republicans in the House upheld his rejection of the measure.

The House then passed legislation to provide war funds in two 60-day installments. Bush threatened a veto, and the measure was sidetracked in the Senate in favor of a non-controversial bill that merely pledged to give the troops the resources they need.

That set the stage for the current House-Senate negotiations on a measure to send to Bush.

The Democrats' attempt to draft war funding legislation occurred after an inconclusive meeting on Friday involving White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten and the Republican and Democratic leaders of Congress.

Democrats criticized the administration for rejecting calls for a troop withdrawal timetable even if Bush has the power to waive it.

For his part, Bolten criticized Democrats for persisting with an approach that had already sparked one veto. He noted the president had already said he was willing to consider legislation that included so-called benchmarks for the Iraqi government.

Both the House and Senate have approved legislation raising the minimum wage of $5.15 an hour to $7.25 an hour in three separate 70-cent increases over 26 months. The measures both included modest tax breaks, mainly aimed at helping businesses that hire low-skilled or handicapped workers.

White House officials have said Bush is amenable to accepting an increase in the minimum wage, although they and key GOP lawmakers favor larger tax cuts to accompany the measure.

Top Democrat insists Iraq bill will pass this week


Sun May 20, 2:35 PM

WASHINGTON (AFP) - US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi says an Iraq war funding bill will pass Congress this week despite fierce opposition from Republicans who say it amounts to "surrender."

The country's top Democrat said a bill containing a timeline for the withdrawal of US troops would be submitted to President George W. Bush by next weekend, when Congress breaks up for a week for the Memorial Day holiday.

In an interview broadcast by ABC News Sunday, Pelosi said Democrats had forged a bipartisan consensus with Bush on issues like trade and immigration.

"But when it comes to the war in Iraq, the president has a tin ear. He just cannot hear, except that which he wants to hear on it," she said.

"One thing is for sure: By the time we leave here to honor our war veterans and those who have given their lives for our country on Memorial Day weekend, we will have legislation to fund the troops."

However, Bush has already vowed to veto afresh any bill to fund the US military presence in Iraq that contains any pullout dates.

A meeting Friday between Bush's chief of staff Joshua Bolten, Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid broke up in acrimony. The White House said that any timelines, even if not enforced, would embolden US enemies.

The Senate's top Republican, Mitch McConnell, said Pelosi was ignoring the fact that the Democrats' bill would never get the 60 votes it needs in the 100-seat upper chamber to override a presidential veto.

"I do have the votes to uphold the veto. We need to stay away from a surrender date," he said on ABC.

"We know how to get there. It's to take out the surrender vote," he added.

"Any kind of reasonable benchmarks on the Iraqi government I think are going to have broad bipartisan support. That's clearly the way to get there."

Democrats are trying to find a way to curtail Bush's powers to fight "a war without end" and mollify their fiercely anti-war supporters, but still offer financial support needed by troops under fire in Iraq.

The Democratic position appeared to be modelled on an amendment which called for troop withdrawals to begin within 120 days to pressure Iraq's government to act itself to quell a bloody insurgency and rebuild the country.

The White House said it was prepared to negotiate on the basis of a resolution which passed the Senate last week authored by Republican Senator John Warner, which sets out certain benchmarks.

Failure to meet the benchmarks would leave the Iraqi government liable to losing certain financial aid, and the president would be required to report to Congress in July and September on progress in Iraq.