Divided House passes troop withdrawal bill

Sens. Carl Levin & Jack Reed after meeting with generals (AP)

A sharply divided House brushed aside a veto threat Wednesday and passed legislation that would order President Bush to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq by Oct. 1.

The 218-208 vote came as the top U.S. commander in Iraq told lawmakers the country remained gripped by violence but was showing some signs of improvement.

Passage puts the bill on track to clear Congress by week’s end and arrive on the president’s desk in coming days as the first binding congressional challenge to Bush’s handling of the conflict now in its fifth year.

"Our troops are mired in a civil war with no clear enemy and no clear strategy for success," said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer.

Republicans promised to stand squarely behind the president in rejecting what they called a "surrender date" handed to the enemy.

"Al-Qaida will view this as the day the House of Representatives threw in the towel," said Rep. Jerry Lewis of California, ranking Republican on the House Appropriations Committee.

The $124.2 billion bill would fund the war, among other things, but demand troop withdrawals begin on Oct. 1 or sooner if the Iraqi government does not meet certain benchmarks. The bill sets a nonbinding goal of completing the troop pull out by April 1, 2008, allowing for forces conducting certain noncombat missions, such as attacking terrorist networks or training Iraqi forces, to remain.

Two Republicans — Reps. Wayne Gilchrest of Maryland and Walter Jones of North Carolina — joined 216 Democrats in passing the bill. Voting no were 195 Republicans and 13 Democrats.

House and Senate appropriators agreed to the legislation earlier this week. The Senate was expected to clear the measure Thursday, sending it to the president.

While Bush was confident the bill would ultimately fail because Democrats lacked the two-thirds majority needed to override a veto, he kept up pressure on lawmakers. On the same day as the House vote, the president dispatched his Iraq commander, Gen. David Petraeus, and other senior defense officials to Capitol Hill to make his case: Additional forces recently sent to Iraq are yielding mixed results and the strategy needs more time to work.

Petraeus told reporters sectarian killings in Baghdad were only a third of what they were in January, before Bush began sending in additional U.S. forces. He added that progress in the troubled western Anbar province was "breathtaking," and that he thought Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was "doing his best" at leading the country.

But "the ability of al-Qaida to conduct horrific, sensational attacks obviously has represented a setback and is an area in which we’re focusing considerable attention," Petraeus said.

Petraeus said he would not touch on the "minefield of discussions about various legislative proposals," but he noted that the new strategy in Iraq was just beginning. He said he planned to provide more details in early September.

Petraeus briefed his findings to lawmakers in a private room, where protesters outside chanted "Troops home now!" Republicans and Democrats alike emerged to say Petraeus had only confirmed their positions.

"This briefing reinforced our view that the solution in Iraq is a political solution," Hoyer, D-Md., told reporters. Also confirmed, he said, was "our belief that we must hold the Iraqis accountable for achieving real progress."

Rep. John Boehner of Ohio, the House Republican leader, said Petraeus acknowledged there were challenges. "But considering where we are, I think the general feels good about the progress thus far," Boehner said.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino reiterated Bush’s veto threat. In a statement issued after the vote, Perino said the House passed "disappointing legislation that insists on a surrender date, handcuffs our generals and contains billions of dollars in spending unrelated to the war."

Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., said Democrats are still considering their next step. He said after Bush’s veto, one option would be funding the war through September as Bush wants but setting benchmarks that the Iraqi government must meet.

"I think everything that passes will have some sort of condition (placed) on it," he said. Ultimately, Murtha added, the 2008 military budget considered by Congress in June "is where you’ll see the real battle."

Petraeus’ comments Wednesday put a finer point on when the much-awaited decision about the length of the U.S. troop buildup may come, saying he will make an assessment of the conditions in Iraq in early September, and report back to Defense Secretary Robert Gates and other military leaders.

Gates has said he expects the assessment this summer, but this is the first time military leaders said it would not be until September.


The bill is H.R. 1591.


Copyright © 2007 The Associated Press


  1. Carl Nemo

    What stuns me about our duty “republicrats” be they in the House or Senate is why the Republican faction and some Democratic “mugwumps” are loyal to this failed Iraqi war paradigm. It’s gotten to the point that even the “village idiot” could see that the situation has failed and is totally “FUBAR” concerning this war that was started based on engineered, “cooked” intelligence, courtesy of the Wolfowitz-Feith-Cheney PNAC/Vulcan, rogue intelligence pipeline! This war is pure b.s. for “we the people”; i.e, we the saps, holding the debt-tag on this monstrous criminal profligacy/conspiracy. These traitorous sob’s “all” have pissed 600,000 million dollars of debt money down an Middle Eastern “rathole”…! Close to 100,000 million dollars have been stolen outright! I’m even ashamed of the caliber of generals, most if not all, West Point academy graduates who trying to feather their nests concerning “cush” MIC jobs post retirement would turn their backs on “duty, honor, country”…! As I write this, a tear just dropped into my keyboard! America is in “harms way” with these mattoids in control. Remember them all when they come up for re-election and give them the collective boot regardless of the “pulled pork” sandwiches they’ve shipped home to Mayberry, USA. Fie on them all! Carl Nemo…**==

    p.s. I’ve posted the “duty link”. I urge all citizen patriots to contact their elected reps and let them know what you think about the current state of affairs. Voting isn’t good enough. You have to be proactive and participative in your governments affairs. They need to know you are watching them 24/7/365.


  2. JudyB

    “Al-Qaida will view this as the day the House of Representatives threw in the towel,” Rep. Jerry Lewis (R) of California

    To all of the ilk who think as Rep. Lewis does, I say to you..AlQaida and the rest of the world will in fact now know that intelligent people with able minds are no longer go to allow the lying, coniving inept dolts to have their say without a fight…the jig is up even though the chief dolt says he will veto this bill, Americans voiced their opinion on wanting our troops out of Iraq and the world will know he refuses to care what we think!

  3. Bill Jonke

    Thought! Our reputation has been sullied many times over, and all over the world there are intelligent people who can read into and form ideas, unlike the Chimp in Chief.

    Bush will be showing his true colors, and there may not be anybody there to bail him out of future blunders, whether it be Poppy, Mommy Babs, or those of other nations.

  4. JudyB

    ” Rep. Jerry Lewis (R) Ca…. ” Al-Qaida will view this as the day the House of Representatives threw in the towel”

    To all those who agree with Rep. Lewis’ statement I say to you…This bill just passed to start troop pull out this fall (the same bill Pres. Bush promises to veto) will let the entire world know that Americans told our politicans when we went to the polls last Nov., that we wanted out of Iraq starting NOW!
    They will also know that Amerians will no longer sit by and allow Bush & buddies to continue this oil war based on lies without a fight in congress..it will make it loud and clear that Bush is not listening to his nations citizens, and could care less what “we the people” we want..he is “The Decider” (Americas Dictator…even he cannot hide behind the sham of his take on “democracy”