Congress Hands Over Their Plan For IraqApril 26, 2007 - by Donny Shaw
It’s official: the bill that calls for U.S. troops to be withdrawn from Iraq beginning in the fall has been passed from Congress and is now in the hands of President Bush.
The Senate today joined the House of Representatives in passing the conference committee report on the bill that was agreed upon on Monday. In both chambers, Democrats passed the bill without a “no” vote to spare — it got exactly the amount of “aye” voted needed for passage in both.
The bill funds the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, sets benchmarks for the Iraqi government, includes new troop readiness requires, raises the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25, provides $25 million for veterans health care and other domestic programs, and calls for troops to begin withdrawal on October 1, with a non-binding goal of April 1, 2008 for all combat troops to be withdrawn.
The additional domestic spending and the withdrawal timeline in the bill have prompted President Bush to declare his intention to veto the bill. Supporters of the bill have nowhere near the two-thirds majority they need to override the veto, so they will quickly be back to the drawing board, drafting a new bill to fund the war — even lawmakers who oppose the war don’t want to leave the troops who are there without the resources they need to do their jobs — and a plan to put an end to it. The Politico reports that some of the Democratic leadership is already looking beyond the veto:
>Murtha said after the vote that he and Obey have already begun to meet to plot post-veto strategy. Murtha insisted that, despite Bush’s claims otherwise, the Pentagon currently has sufficient funds to conduct combat operations in Iraq until late June, meaning Democrats would be in no hurry to rush another funding bill down to the White House.
>The Pennsylvania Democrat said that he and Obey discussed several options – the first, a short-term funding bill of two to three months length that has no withdrawal timetable but includes “benchmarks” for political and diplomatic progress in Iraq, which Bush would be required to report to Congress on. Murtha said this option may not be viable because the funding would run out shortly before or during the traditional August recess for Congress.
>The second proposal would be for combat funding for the remainder of 2007, although also with benchmarks. Murtha, however, said many Democrats, including newly elected members, may not vote for it if no withdrawal timetable is included in the legislation.
>“We’ve got members who don’t want to vote for nothing,” Murtha said, signaling that a new bill might be as easy to craft as the White House and GOP leaders have suggested if and when this proposal is vetoed. “These new members, they are upset. They were sent here to stop the war.”