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House passes Iraq bill calling for troops out by December '08

  • Story Highlights
  • Bill offers less funds for Iraq, Afghanistan than Bush requested
  • $50 billion bill sets goal of troop withdrawal from Iraq by December 15, 2008
  • Bill bans government from using waterboarding interrogation technique
  • White House says bill is "political posturing" and likely to be vetoed
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Democratic-controlled U.S. House Wednesday approved a war-funding bill with a timeline for troop withdrawal from Iraq and substantially less funds to conduct the war than President Bush has requested.

Sen. Harry Reid says restrictions must be part of the bill or "the president won't get his $50 billion."

The 218-203 vote was largely along party lines.

Fifteen Democrats joined Republicans in voting against the bill while four Republicans voted in favor of it. The vote was far short of the two-thirds majority needed to override a presidential veto, which Bush has threatened.

The bill states that the primary purpose of the money "should be to transition the mission of United States Armed Forces in Iraq and undertake their redeployment."

It demands that Bush begin withdrawing troops from Iraq within 30 days of passage, with a goal of having American combat troops out of Iraq by December 15, 2008.

The $50 billion "bridge fund" is about a quarter of the nearly $200 billion the Bush administration has requested to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for 2008. Most of the money is slated for Iraq, where the Pentagon estimates the cost of its operations at about $10 billion a month.

"The fact is, we can no longer militarily sustain the deployment in Iraq," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California. "Staying there in the manner we are there is no longer an option."

Pelosi praised the performance of American troops, but said Iraqi leaders have failed to take the steps needed to reach a political settlement of the four-year-old war.

The White House said in a statement the legislation "would only partially fund our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, but fully embolden our enemies ... These votes, like the dozens of previous failed votes, put the interests of radical interest groups ahead of the needs of our military and their mission."

"Congress has had ample time to pass legislation to fund our troops," the White House statement said. "The original supplemental request was made in February and augmented in October. But because congressional Democrats insist in going through another round of political votes and vetoes, Pentagon planners will be forced to focus on accounting maneuvers instead of military maneuvers."

Bush vetoed a similar measure in May. But the Democratic leaders of the House and Senate say if the president vetoes this bill, the administration will have to divert money from elsewhere in the Pentagon's $470 billion budget to keep the war going.

Democrats say the 2006 elections that brought them to power in the House and Senate were a mandate to end the war. But White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said Democrats are wasting time "for political posturing and to appease radical groups."

"The Democrats believe that these votes will somehow punish the president, but it actually punishes the troops," Perino said. "This punishes our military planners, our procurement officers and many others who are working on this war effort. If the president is presented with this version of the bill, he will veto it."

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said the military already has had to shift money in order to support troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"The Army is in a particularly precarious situation," he said. "Absent extraordinary measures, it would run out of money by mid-February. So quick congressional action is needed, as quickly as possible."

Despite reports of progress from American commanders in Baghdad and a sharp decline in U.S. and Iraqi deaths since the summer, Iraq remains widely unpopular at home.

A CNN-Opinion Research poll conducted in early November found 68 percent of Americans polled oppose the war, and 62 percent consider the conflict a stalemate.

"This bill is not perfect," said Rep. Lynn Woolsey, a Democrat from California. "It is the boldest step yet, however, and we must support it."

But Missouri Rep. Roy Blunt, the GOP whip, compared the new Democratic effort to the film "Groundhog Day" in which the main character keeps living the same day over and over.

"The Democrats appear to never get tired of foregone conclusions -- never get tired of doing the same thing over and over again, with the same result," said Blunt.

The legislation also would require the Pentagon to give troops the same amount of time at home as they were deployed into combat, and bans government agents from using "waterboarding" -- a technique the United States once prosecuted as a war crime -- against suspected terrorists.


Bush already has announced plans to withdraw most of the 30,000 additional troops he dispatched in January in an effort to secure Baghdad and its surrounding provinces, leaving about 140,000 American troops in Iraq.

Pentagon and U.S. military sources say the reductions would already have been necessary in order to make sure soldiers in a stretched Army get their promised time off back home. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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