Video: Lawmakers debate Iraq timetables

updated 3/15/2007 4:26:37 PM ET 2007-03-15T20:26:37

Democrats aggressively challenged President Bush's Iraq policy at both ends of the Capitol on Thursday, gaining House committee approval for a troop withdrawal deadline of Sept. 1, 2008, but suffering defeat in the Senate on a less sweeping plan to end U.S. participation in the war.

Anti-war Democrats prevailed on a near-party line vote of 36-28 in the House Appropriations Committee, brushing aside a week-old veto threat and overcoming unyielding opposition from Republicans.

"I want this war to end. I don't want to go to any more funerals," said New York Rep. Rep. Jose Serrano, one of several liberal Democrats who have pledged their support for the legislation despite preferring a faster end to the war.

"Nobody wants our troops out of Iraq more than I do, countered Rep. C.W. Bill Young of Florida, who sought unsuccessfully to scuttle the timeline for a troop withdrawal. "But we can't afford to turn over Iraq to al-Qaida."

In the Senate, after weeks of skirmishing, Republicans easily turned back Democratic legislation requiring a troop withdrawal to begin within 120 days. The measure set no fixed deadline for completion of the redeployment, but set a goal of March 31, 2008. The vote was 50-48 against the measure, 12 short of the 60 needed for passage.

National security interests
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, a Democratic presidential candidate, said in a New York Times interview that if elected she would maintain a scaled-down American military force in Iraq that would stay off the streets in Baghdad and no longer would try to protect Iraqis from sectarian violence.

She cited “remaining vital national security interests” for a continued deployment of U.S. troops in Iraq aimed at fighting al-Qaida, deterring Iran, protecting Kurds and possibly supporting the Iraqi military, the newspaper reported Wednesday night on its Web site.

She said her plan was consistent with the Senate resolution, saying it called for “a limited number” of troops to stay in Iraq to protect the U.S. Embassy and other personnel, train and equip Iraqi forces and conduct “targeted counterterrorism operations.”

Stalled debate in Senate
The Senate voted 89-9 on Wednesday to begin consideration of the measure, but debate quickly became hamstrung again after Republicans and Democrats failed to agree on the parameters for a debate.

Aides said leaders were waiting to see a proposal by Sen. John Warner, R-Va. According to a draft, Warner’s resolution would outline benchmarks for the Iraqi government and call for an assessment of Iraqi security forces.

Warner’s resolution stops short of calling for troops to leave Iraq by any particular date.

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While the House bill is unlikely to sail through unchecked, Democrats say its passage — even if by a slim majority — would be a loud message to the president to end the war. Its passage also would be a political victory for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who has struggled in trying to unify party members on the war.

Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., who had been skeptical of earlier drafts of the war spending bill, said he is now on board and believes Democratic defections will be few.

Pelosi was trying to line up votes from party liberals who want troops out of Iraq sooner than the 2008 deadline, as well as more conservative Democrats who are concerned the bill would micromanage the war.

Rep. Barbara Lee, a member of the Appropriations Committee, has not said whether she will vote in favor of the bill. As co-chair of the Progressive Caucus, Lee, D-Calif., supports an alternative proposal that would cut funding for all military operations.

‘The best way to get out of Iraq’
In a statement Tuesday, Lee called the supplemental proposal a step forward.

“Still, too many of our troops are dying in an occupation that needs to end sooner rather than later, and I will continue to push for enforceable timelines and to protect our troops and to fully fund their safe and orderly withdrawal from Iraq at the earliest practicable date.”

But other members of the Progressive Caucus said they would support the measure once it is on the floor.

“I think people have to take a close look at the best way to get out of Iraq,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn. “I think this is the best framework to do that.”

Rep. C.W. Bill Young, the top Republican on the Appropriations Committee, said he opposed the spending legislation because of the timetable to end the war.

But Young was not expected to oppose Obey’s suggestion to delay the closing of Walter Reed.

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