Another meaningless gesture?

House Democrats pushed through a $50 billion bill for the Iraq war Wednesday night that would require President Bush to start bringing troops home in coming weeks with a goal of ending combat by December 2008.

The legislation, passed 218-203, was largely a symbolic jab at Bush, who already has begun reducing force levels but opposes a congressionally mandated timetable on the war. And while the measure was unlikely to pass in the Senate — let alone overcome a presidential veto — Democrats said they wanted voters to know they weren’t giving up.

“The fact is, we can no longer sustain the military deployment in Iraq,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. “Staying there in the manner that we are there is no longer an option.”

The White House pledged to veto the bill, and Republicans said they would back the president.

“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,” an administration statement said.

The bill represents about a quarter of the $196 billion Bush requested for combat operations in the 2008 budget year, which began Oct 1.

It would compel an unspecified number of troops to leave Iraq within 30 days, a requirement Bush is already on track to meet as he begins in coming weeks to reverse the 30,000 troop buildup he ordered earlier this year. It also sets a goal of ending combat by Dec. 15, 2008, and states that money included in the bill should be used to redeploy troops and “not to extend or prolong the war.”

The measure also would set government-wide standards on interrogation, effectively barring the CIA from using such harsh techniques as waterboarding, which simulates drowning.

The bill was on shaky ground this week, after some liberal Democrats said they were concerned it was too soft and would not force Bush to end the war. Conservative Democrats said they thought it went too far and would tie the hands of military commanders.

The bill’s prospects brightened somewhat after three leading anti-war Democrats announced they would support it. California Reps. Lynn Woolsey, Barbara Lee and Maxine Waters said they had agreed to swing behind it because the bill explicitly states the money should be used to bring troops home.

But still uncertain the bill would pass, Pelosi on Wednesday delayed a vote by several hours while she met with supporters and asked them to help her round up votes.

Fifteen Democrats broke ranks and joined 188 Republicans in opposing the measure. Four Republicans joined 214 Democrats in supporting it.

Republicans fought bitterly against the timetable in the bill, as well as the restrictions on interrogations. Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, his party’s leader, said the bill would lead to “nothing other than failure.”

Hours before the scheduled vote, the White House dispatched Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to Capitol Hill to brief lawmakers on Iraq.

In one closed-door meeting, Gates urged a group of senators not to support the bill. He said the same lawmakers who criticized Pentagon civilians for previously ignoring the advice of its uniformed generals were asking him to ignore them now, according to an official who attended the meeting. The official requested anonymity because the meeting was private.

Similar legislation has passed repeatedly along party lines in the House only to sink in the Senate, where Democrats hold a razor-thin majority and 60 votes are needed to overcome procedural hurdles.

It is expected that if the measure fails in the Senate, Democrats will not consider Bush’s war spending request until next year. Democrats say the military won’t need the money until then and the Pentagon can transfer money from less urgent accounts or from spending set aside for the last three months of this year.

The Pentagon says moving money around is a bureaucratic nightmare that costs more in the long run. And if taken to the extreme, the military would eventually have to freeze contracts or lay off civilian workers to ensure troops in combat have what they need.

In another provision that drew White House opposition, the House bill would require that all government interrogators rely on the Army Field Manual. The manual is based on Geneva Convention standards and was updated in 2006 to specifically prohibit the military from using aggressive interrogation techniques, such as waterboarding.

The White House said in its statement that the Geneva Conventions shouldn’t apply to “captured terrorists who openly flout that law.”

The bill also would require the president to certify to Congress 15 days in advance that a unit being sent into combat is “fully mission capable,” although Bush could waive that requirement if necessary.


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  1. Caine

    Here we go again.

    The bill will pass the Senate and House. It will then be vetoed by Pres. Bush. It will then go back to the house and senate where any restriction on Bush will be removed, giving him everything he wants: AGAIN!

    It will again pass the house and senate. Then Bush will sign it and spend the money he so desperately needs!

    Then in a week, the dems, including those that fell at Bush’s feet and approved the removal of the restrictions, will bitch because of the cost of the war!

    What a pitiful feckin lot!!

  2. Electric Bill

    I believe the people who just dismiss this as a meaningless political gesture are missing the point. If the Democrats cave in the same craven manner they have in the past, then it is a meaningless gesture. However, Bush has backed them into a corner. In his mad dog insanity, he has given the Democrats no reason not to fight back. He is going to trash them whether they fight or not. Even if they give him exactly what he wants the lying bastard will trash them so why not fight. If the Democrats hold fast to their position and make him go to the people, make the Republican senators filibuster, and make the House Republicans protest, then they win. The people are solidly against the Iraq War. It is very important for Democrats to remind the people that this is a Republican War, Bush’s war, and not an America war. That’s the point. Is this a cynical political ploy? Let’s hope so. The Republicans have used the war and the brave soldiers who have fought it as props for four years and have yet to show even the slightest concern for their welfare, especially when that are too damaged to continue the fight. If the Democrats want to sweep the trash out next fall, they had better stand and fight now.

  3. Caine

    Electric Bill:
    “If the Democrats cave in the same craven manner they have in the past, then it is a meaningless gesture. However, Bush has backed them into a corner. In his mad dog insanity, he has given the Democrats no reason not to fight back.”

    your right of course.

    So, when they cave again this time, maybe they don’t cave to help Bush, but they cave to help themselves. Maybe they have other motives for allowing this insanity to continue. Maybe they are also benefiting financially somehow?

    Maybe I am full of crap? We shall see.

  4. Electric Bill

    I hope you are full of crap, but I wouldn’t bet the farm on it. I don’t have any more faith in the Democrats’ ideals or courage than you do but I am absolutely certain that this nation can’t stand another four years of Republican “leadership.” I remember during the 2000 elections a number of people told me that both parties are just alike. I believe the last seven years demonstrates the foolishness of that remark. The Democrats may be foolish, gutless, and self-interested, but the Republicans are fascists, racists, and warmongers who want to turn this country into Germany circa 1935 and make the trains run on time and turn the parasite class loose on the rest of us,(isn’t that a lovely choice?) so I hope you are wrong. If you aren’t we had all better start learning to speak a European language because this country won’t be a fit place to live. I had to learn Spanish in grad school and after reading about King Juan Carlos telling Chavez to shut up, I think I might like it there. The beer isn’t much, but they are right next door to Italy and they have several excellent brews.

  5. bjiller

    About time. So what if it is vetoed and the veto is not overridden. This will hang the war around the necks of those who support it. Sometimes, even a doomed act is the right thing to do. This is EXACTLY what the Dems need to do.

  6. SEAL

    Those struggling to survive on social security or other fixed incomes in this country could live quite well in Mexico. Our poverty line is upper middle class down there. The Mexican auto plant worker earns $11.00 a DAY. That is less than one-half the minimum SS if he works 30 days a month.

    Retirees could live just across the border so they could cross over to the US for their medicare benefits.

    I’m sure Mexico would roll out the welcome mat for a mass influx of retiree money into their economy. You would see a string of retirement communities all along the Mexican side of the border with clinics and other medical facilities poping up on the American side (next to WallMarts?)

    The average retiree could afford housekeepers, cooks, and lawn care which would make their life much easier. More jobs on the Mexican side means less immigration problems.

    I know some retirees who have moved to Mexico. They say they live the life of luxury down there. Nice homes and servants. The weather is great, it seldom rains. The government treats them very well just as they do anyone with money.

    Imagine the impact if half of our retirees took their SS and pension checks to Mexico.

  7. SEAL

    Last night I watched a re-run of Bill Mahr and one of his guests was one of the standard democrap congressmen. Mahr got him to state the official position of the Democrappy congress which is:

    We are trying to stop the war. We send bills to the president that would end it but he vetos them and we don’t have the votes to override. So, the war will not end until we get a new president that will approve the bills we send him.

    There you have it. There will be no beginning of the end to the war until 2009. He said they will not cut off the funding because they have to “protect” the troops by making sure they have the money for the right and best equipment.

    One of the other panelists and the entire audiance told him the best way to protect the troops was to bring them home.

    Mahr said it all sounds to him like the democraps are just using this to win the next election and the guy became very flustered in his denial of that. He looked guilty as hell. It was a Kodak moment.

    It really is sickening to watch our elected officials so obviously lie. Anyone watching could tell he was lying. On top of that he gave the appearance of being completely gutless. They’re nothing but a group of mealy mouthed political thugs who listen to no one but themselves.