House Passes Iraq Funding With Withdrawal Timetable: Veto Certain
And now the stage is set for the continued quickening of end-game discussions about Iraq: defying President George Bush’s threat of a veto and Bush’s statements accusing Democrats of not supporting the troops, the House has passed a historic funding bill that will set a withdrawal timetable from Iraq. CNN:
President Bush and the Democratic-controlled Congress lurched toward a veto showdown over Iraq on Wednesday, as the House passed legislation that would order troops to begin coming home by October 1.
The bill passed the House by a vote of 218-208. Nine Democrats voted against the bill and two Republicans voted for it.
Not an overwhelming majority and certainly not veto proof — but it is sufficient to shove the Democrats demand for a withdrawal timetable away from a political stance to a must-deal-with political demand. MORE:
President Bush has promised to veto any legislation that contains a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. troops.
Republicans said setting a timetable on the war would hand a victory to terrorists.
This also sets the state for already piping-hot political rhetoric to heat up even more with some GOPers equating the measure with the Democrats being at the very least enablers of terrorists and Democrats (and many of the increasingly large number of independents that political polls show agree with the Democrats) accusing Republicans who use this argument as using an updated 21st century version of McCarthy-style definition and demonization.
“Setting a date and conveying it to the enemy and telegraphing to them verbatim that the war is lost is not the right posture for this government to take,” said Rep. Adam Putnam, R-Florida.
The House vote came as the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, and other defense officials tried to convince lawmakers that a timetable would push Iraq into chaos. But Democrats said they were undeterred, guaranteeing a historic confrontation with Bush.
“For the first time, the president will have to be accountable for this war in Iraq,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, said Tuesday. “And he does not want to face that reality.”
The $124.2 billion bill would fund, among other things, the war in Iraq but trigger the withdrawal of troops beginning this fall. It sets a non binding goal of completing the pullout by April 1, 2008.
Troops could remain in Iraq after the 2008 date but only for limited non-combat missions, including counterterrorism operations and training Iraqi forces.
The bill, already negotiated with Senate leaders, is expected to reach the president’s desk by early next week following a final Senate vote Thursday.
â€œThis bill is a statement that Congress will no longer fund the war as it exists today,â€? said Representative Louise Slaughter, the New York Democrat who is chairwoman of the Rules Committee, as she opened the debate.
Republicans accused Democrats of establishing a â€œdate certainâ€? for Americaâ€™s defeat in Iraq. â€œThere will be no greater event to empower radical Islam than our retreat and defeat from Iraq,â€? said Representative Jeb Hensarling of Texas, leader of a conservative wing of House Republicans.
The Senate is expected on Thursday to approve identical legislation that provides more than $95 billion for combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan through Sept. 30, with the money conditioned on the administrationâ€™s willingness to accept a timetable for withdrawal and new benchmarks to assess the progress of the Iraqi government.
Democratic leaders plan to send the bill to the White House next Monday â€” one day before the fourth anniversary of Mr. Bushâ€™s May 1, 2003, speech aboard an aircraft carrier when he declared the end of major combat operations before a banner that said â€œMission Accomplished.â€?
Expect that video clip to be played on some newscasts. But as the Times notes, BOTH sides are now gearing up for a longer-range battle:
With the outcome essentially preordained, advocacy groups on both sides of the issue were readying campaigns to try to shape public opinion for the unfolding of the showdown and beyond, when Congressional leaders will be forced to regroup and try again to approve financing for the troops.
Groups aligned with the Democrats plan to capitalize on the connection between the veto and the â€œmission accomplishedâ€? anniversary. Americans United for Change has produced a commercial to be broadcast on cable and public affairs programs that replays scenes of Mr. Bush on the carrier and says: â€œHe was wrong then. And heâ€™s wrong now. Itâ€™s the will of one nation versus the stubbornness of one man.â€?
Allies of the president are mobilizing as well. The conservative Web site Townhall.com was organizing an online â€œno surrenderâ€? petition, and urging visitors to the site to tell the Democratic Partyâ€™s â€œroguesâ€™ gallery that we will not stand for their defeatism,â€? adding, â€œWhile they may lack courage, our troops do not and they deserve the resources needed to win this war.â€?
Outlook: polarization will continue to grow and expand.
Problem for the White House: Polls increasingly show that its “red-meat” arguments are appealing to the GOP base but are continuing to be dismissed by an increasingly large number of independent voters. More and more it appears as if going into 2008 it’ll be the remaining Republican base supporters versus the Democrats supported by a large chunk of independent voters — a coalition that could prove damaging for the GOP in the long run.
War outlook: Unless there is some massive turn around and the surge suddenly clicks in to transform the war theater, the war is on borrowed time and it’s virtually certain the next Democratic or Republican president in 2008 will either end it or quicken the march towards a U.S. exit.