WASHINGTON — House Democrats are planning another veto showdown with President Bush on the Iraq war. And this time, they say they won't back down.
The House planned to vote as early as next week on a $50 billion war spending bill that would require Bush to begin withdrawing troops. The measure identifies a goal of ending combat by December 2008, leaving only enough soldiers and Marines behind to fight terrorists, train Iraqi security forces and protect U.S. assets.
In a private caucus meeting on Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told rank-and-file Democrats the bill was their best shot at challenging Bush on the war. And if Bush rejected it, she said, she did not intend on sending him another war spending bill for the rest of the year.
"It's a war without end," Pelosi, D-Calif., later told reporters. "There is no light at the end of the tunnel. We must reverse it."
The bill is similar to one rejected by Bush in May. Unable to muster the two-thirds majority needed to override the veto, Democrats stripped the timetable from the bill and approved a $95 billion emergency spending bill, mostly for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Bush to veto bill proposing 'artificial timeline'
The measure established political goals for the Iraqi government and put conditions on reconstruction aid, but Bush ultimately retained authority over the money, which ran out this fall.
White House spokesman Tony Fratto said Thursday that Bush would again veto any legislation that sets an "artificial timeline" for troop withdrawals.
"We should be supporting our troops as they are succeeding, not finding ways to undercut their mission," he said.
Several anti-war liberals said Thursday they were willing to give Bush more money for the war, as long as it came with strings attached.
"The American people want out," Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., said. "And we have to make sure we take giant steps in that direction."
But others said they were concerned the bill was too soft. After meeting with these members, Pelosi decided to put off debate until next week as she negotiated the details.
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If approved by the House, the Senate also might take up the measure next week.
Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he did not want to approve a spending measure for Iraq unless it forced a change in Bush's policies. When asked whether that was possible, considering the thin majority Democrats hold in the Senate, Reid said it "is up to the White House and up to the Republicans."
Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Democrats face "unfortunate timing" because of the military progress being made in Iraq.
"While our troops are quelling violence and defeating terrorists in Baghdad and throughout Iraq, Democrats in Washington are trying to choke off funds for our troops in the field," he said.
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