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With moderate Republicans telling President George W. Bush he has lost the trust of the American people and faces a massive defection within GOP ranks over his failed Iraq war, the stage is set today for another showdown on Capitol Hill over funding of the war.
Bush is threatening another veto if the bill includes any attempts to set timetables or restrictions on the war.
Writes Edward Epstein in The San Francisco Chronicle:
The confrontation between Congress and President Bush over the Iraq war will enter its next phase Thursday, when the House plans to vote on the Democratic leadership's new plan to put war spending on a strict, almost month-by-month diet.
The White House indicated strongly Tuesday that Bush would veto such a bill, just as he did an earlier version of the war-spending bill that required U.S. troops to begin to withdraw from Iraq later this year.
And it's still not clear if the House leadership proposal will prevail in the Senate, where small groups of Democratic and Republican senators are negotiating their own legislation.
The House bill would give Bush $30.4 billion to pay for the Iraq war over the next two months but would require another vote in late July before Congress would provide another $53 billion to pay for the war through Sept. 30, the end of the federal fiscal year.
The legislation is likely to face near-unanimous Republican opposition in the House and Senate — as did the $124 billion emergency war-spending plan passed by Congress and vetoed last week by Bush.
The new approach formulated by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and her top deputies also has been assailed by a coalition of antiwar groups, which wants the Democrats who control the House and Senate to stand up to Bush and end the war as soon as possible, even in the face of presidential vetoes.
House Democrats said they are well aware of the conflicting pressures — from their party base, which wants them to end the war, from their own members not to cut off funds for troops in the field and from the public's expectation that they will assume a role as a stable governing force in Washington.
They also are aware, given recent comments by GOP leaders that Bush has only until late summer to show progress in Iraq before his support within the party folds, that time might be on their side.
"There isn't a member across the spectrum, ideologically or geographically, who isn't getting pressure from constituents. They want to see a Congress that will bring change in Iraq policy," said Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., who chairs the House Democratic Caucus.
The latest plan emerged as the Pentagon notified more than 35,000 troops to prepare to deploy to Iraq beginning this fall, a move that would allow commanders to maintain the president's policy of building up troop levels through the end of the year if needed.