Senate passes Iraq timetable

In a bold wartime challenge to President Bush, the Democratic-controlled Senate voted Thursday to begin withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq by Oct. 1 with a goal of a complete pullout six months later. The White House dismissed the legislation as "dead before arrival."

The 51-46 vote was largely along party lines, and like House passage a day earlier it underscored that the war’s congressional opponents are far short of the two-thirds majority needed to override a Bush veto.

Democrats marked Thursday’s final passage with a news conference during which they repeatedly urged Bush to reconsider his veto threat. "This bill for the first time gives the president of the United States an exit strategy" from Iraq, said Rep. David Obey of Wisconsin.

The legislation is "in keeping with what the American people want," added Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.

The White House was unmoved. "The president’s determined to win in Iraq. I think the bill that they sent us today is mission defeated," said deputy press secretary Dana Perino. "This bill is dead before arrival."

Given that standoff, Republicans and Democrats alike already were maneuvering for position on a follow-up bill.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell dismissed the just-passed legislation as "political posturing" by Democrats that deserves the veto it will receive. "The solution is simple: Take out the surrender date, take out the pork and get the funds to our troops," he said.

The bill would provide $124.2 billion, more than $90 billion of which would go for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Democrats added billions more for domestic programs, and while most of the debate focused on the troop withdrawal issue, some of the extra spending also has drawn Bush’s criticism.

The day’s developments amounted to a landmark of sorts.

The vote occurred nearly four years after Bush stood on the deck of an aircraft carrier before a banner that read "Mission Accomplished" — and 113 days after Democrats took power in Congress and vowed to change course in a war that has cost the lives of more than 3,300 U.S. troops.

During Vietnam, a longer and far deadlier war for U.S. forces, Congress went years before it was able to agree on legislation significantly challenging presidential war policy.

In the current case, any veto override attempt would occur in the House, and even Democrats concede they lack the votes to prevail.

With House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at his side, Reid said Democrats hoped to have a follow-up war-funding bill ready for the president’s signature by June 1. Despite administration claims to the contrary, he said that was soon enough to prevent serious disruption in military operations.

Several Democratic officials have said they expect the next measure will jettison the withdrawal timetable, a concession to Bush. At the same time, they say they hope to include standards for the Iraqi government to meet on issues such as expanding democratic participation and allocating oil resources.

Bush and congressional Republicans, eager to signal the public that they do not support an open-ended commitment to Iraq, have both embraced these so-called benchmarks. Unlike Democrats, they generally oppose using benchmarks to require specific actions, such as troop withdrawals.

Rep. John Boehner of Ohio, the House Republican leader, said at a news conference that the purpose of benchmarks should be to "see how the Iraqi government is doing," rather than to establish deadlines for a troop withdrawal.

Opinion on the issue covered a wide spectrum. "The only good measure that exists in Iraq now is body counts, and that’s not a very good measure," said Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas, a moderate Democrat.

Congress acted as the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, said at a Pentagon news conference that the U.S. mission "may get harder before it gets easier."

Less than three months after Bush announced an increase in troop strength and a shift in tactics, Petraeus said improvements were evident in both Baghdad and the Anbar Province in western Iraq. At the same time, he said the accomplishments "have not come without sacrifice" and that greater American losses have resulted from increased car bombings and suicide attacks, plus the greater concentration of U.S. troops among the Iraqi population.

There were no surprises in the Senate vote, in which 48 Democrats and one independent joined Republicans Gordon Smith of Oregon and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska in supporting the bill. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, a Connecticut independent who typically votes with the Democrats, sided with 45 Republicans in opposition.

In a clear warning to the White House, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, opposed the legislation but issued a statement saying her patience with the war was limited.

"If the president’s new strategy does not demonstrate significant results by August, then Congress should consider all options including a redefinition of our mission and a gradual but significant withdrawal of our troops next year," she said. Like Hagel and Smith, Collins is coming up on a 2008 re-election campaign.

Democrats have long argued that Republicans must choose between a politically unpopular war on the one hand and a president of their own party on the other.

The legislation requires a troop withdrawal to begin July 1 if Bush cannot certify that the Iraqi government is making progress in disarming militias, reducing sectarian violence and forging political agreements, otherwise by Oct. 1.

While the beginning of a withdrawal is mandated, the balance of the pullback is merely advisory, to take place by April 1, 2008.

Troops could remain after that date to conduct counterterrorism missions, protect U.S. facilities and personnel and train Iraqi security forces.

The war aside, Democrats included more than $10 billion in the legislation that Bush did not ask for. Included was $3.5 billion for the victims of Hurricane Katrina; $2.3 billion for homeland security and smaller amounts for rural schools, firefighting, children’s health care and other programs.

Copyright © 2007 The Associated Press


  1. gene

    On an article pertaining to the above subject states that General David Petraeus, commander of US Iraqi forces told reporters that “the war in Iraq is likely to get harder before it gets better”

    Well ain’t that f**king brillant, no wonder he’s a general. When has this so called war ever been easy and does anyone ever see it getting better other than Mr. “mission accomplished” ie. Bushidiot or his side kick dick-head Cheney.

    These people are bonafied bastards that know exactly what they are doing. God only knows the evil behind this gain of murderers.

  2. SEAL

    In the mid 1700s a group of men got together and created a representative democracy. This was done because the time required for acquiring the votes of all of the citizens of the 13 states about any issue or proposal would take too long to be feasible to the operation of the government. So, to solve the problem, they allocated to each state a number of representatives the citizens of each state would elect and then send to the seat of government to “represent their wishes” to the government. This system is still in effect today. However, the elected representatives from the various states no longer represent the wishes of the majority of the voters of their states that send them to Washington to do that. Instead, they represent the wishes of the political party they belong to. How is that possible? Legally, I don’t see how they could do that. I seems to me it would be criminal not to obey the citizens of the state that sends them.

    Considering the communication ability that exists today, the “representative” system is no longer necessary. Decisions by the voters of the nation could be obtained on any issue within a very short period of time. All that is needed is qualified individuals and committees to prepare the worthwhile proposals from the president or anyone else to be voted on. The same would be true of the state, county, or city governments. Televised debates should be scheduled with a certain amount of time given for consideration before voting. Surely it would be less expensive to install neighborhood [or even household if voting was mandatory] voting boxes than it has proved to be to support a congress that spends most of their time and the money we pay them to campaign for reelection. One box for every 100 people sounds about right to me and allowing two days to vote. Such a system would make the intent of the founders a reality. The United States of America would be controlled by the people instead of political parties and lobbyists or partisan groups.

  3. Bill Robinson

    While Seal’s comment above smacks of some of the better things in 1984, if there were any better things in that book, it also hits on the fact of the matter–our government has failed to represent us and no longer can be said to be “ours.” They represent the interests of the lobbyists and their own self-serving thoughts, not those of the American People.
    Voting on an issue that you know will be vetoed is about as dynamic a move as going for a walk on a cloudless sunday afternoon. It accomplishes nothing. It’s not even symbolic. A bowel movement on the steps of the Capitol would be more symbolic, and I would encourage all of DC’s thirty million annual visitors to leave their symbolism on the steps of the capitol, or better yet, at the door of your senator. Leave a little note with the shit saying “Senator, this smells as bad as your vote to bring our boys and girls home from Iraq. Do something that has the possibility of success. Impeach the two monsters who started this fake war in the first place.” Maybe the senator will get the message. Maybe not, but at least you will have left a thought that they won’t soon forget. Then write a note saying you DO give a shit and you WILL vote in November, so they better start working and doing what they are paid that stupidly high salary to do–represent all the people of our state.
    Maybe they will understand. If they don’t then they deserve to be voted out of office.
    Just like Bush and Cheney deserve to be impeached.
    Because they are all traitors and have all violated the oath of office.
    Fire them if they don’t do the job. Hire new ones. At this salary level we deserve the very best.

  4. geyser

    I really hope the Democrats realize what a waste of time this was. Why they continued to go on with it, knowing bush was not going to accept it, doesn’t show any commitment or doing what the people want. What they really failed at, was convincing enough Republicans to go along with them. Without any support from the Republicans, it was past dead.
    If the Republicans wanted to end this war they would’ve jumped on the Band Wagon, which would have given the measure some meaning. The Republicans decided to stick with bush, which they will pay for at a later date.
    The question is, What do the Democrats do now? Just making Speeches saying bush and his party don’t listen to the people, will not bring the troops home. What they can’t and must not do, is fold up their tent and give bush what he wants. Doing that will lose what credibility they have left.
    If there is still a way to hold the funds, they must take that road. If there isn’t, make bush get the funds on his own.
    While that is going on, the Democrats can still start Impeachment procedings against bush, something they should have used as a threat if bush used the Veto,

    Taking One Day at a Time

  5. April-May

    Dumbass doesn’t recognize what a 28% approval rating means. Too bad we can’t have a “vote of confidence” when 67% of the electorate disapproves of the job he’s doing.

    Then — and here’s the really good part — if he get less than a 30% approval rating from the voters both he and his chosen VP get to pack their bags and go on a hunting trip together. (Watch yer head, Georgie!)

    Speaker of the House would take over, and we’d run an election to fill the vacated seat.