Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Bush Vetoes Supplemental Appropriations Bill Requiring Troop Withdrawal from Iraq

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Bush Vetoes Supplemental Appropriations Bill Requiring Troop Withdrawal from Iraq

Article excerpt

On May 1, President George W. Bush vetoed H.R. 1591-the $124 billion supplemental appropriations bill to fund, among other things, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan-because he objected to its strict timetable for U.S. troops to withdraw from Iraq, beginning as early as July 1.

Prior to the congressional Easter recess, the House and the Senate passed different versions of the bill. The House version would require the Iraqi government to assume greater responsibilities and meet a set of benchmarks; the Pentagon to impose strict standards to improve U.S. troop readiness; and would impose deadlines for the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops. The main difference in the Senate version was that the dates for withdrawal of U.S. combat troops were given as goals, rather than strict deadlines. The conference committee reconciling the two versions finally issued its report on April 23. While slightly altering the dates, it largely adopted the stricter House language.

The conference report says that if Bush cannot certify that the Iraqi government has made progress toward meeting the stated benchmarks, U.S. combat troops would begin withdrawing by July 1, 2007, with the withdrawal to be completed by the end of 2007. If the certification is made, troop withdrawal would begin by Oct. 1, 2007, and be completed by April 1, 2008.

The House passed the report on April 25 on a roll call vote of 218-208, with Reps. Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO) and Pete Stark (D-CA) voting present. Only Reps. Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD) and Walter Jones (R-NC) joined the Democrats in voting for the bill. Thirteen Democrats joined the Republicans in opposing it: Reps. John Barrow (GA), Dan Boren (OK), Lincoln Davis (TN), Dennis Kucinich (OH), Barbara Lee (CA), John Lewis (GA), Jim Marshall (GA), Jim Matheson (UT), Michael McNulty (NY), Michael Michaud (ME), Gene Taylor (MS), Maxine Waters (CA) and Lynn Woolsey (CA). The Senate passed the report the next day, on a vote of 51-46. Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) joined the Republicans in opposing the measure, and Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chuck Hagel (R-NE), and Gordon Smith (R-OR) joined the Democrats in voting for it.

Meanwhile, congressional leaders of both parties were starting to try to put together a compromise bill that can be passed by both houses of Congress and signed by Bush. The strict timetable for troop withdrawal will probably be dropped, perhaps to be inserted later into a different defense-related bill. But the benchmark provisions have supporters in both parties and may be retained. Several options are being considered, and it is likely that negotiations to craft a compromise bill will run into the middle of May.

The benchmark provisions have supporters in both parties and may be retained.

Meanwhile, three new Iraq-related bills were introduced. In the Senate, Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI), with nine co-sponsors, on April 10 introduced S. 1077, probably one of the strongest anti-war bills circulating in Congress. It says that redeployment of U.S. forces from Iraq should begin within 120 days of enactment of the bill, with funding for the war to be cut off by March 31, 2008, with certain limited exceptions. In a surprise to many observers, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) agreed to be one of the bill's co-sponsors.

In the House, Rep. Christopher Shays (R-CT), with no co-sponsors, introduced two measures on March 29. H.R. 1837 would "require the president to develop a plan containing dates certain for the commencement and completion of a phased redeployment of U.S. Armed Forces from Iraq." H.Con.Res. 110 would express "the sense of Congress that Iraq should vote to approve or disapprove the continued deployment of U.S. Armed Forces to Iraq and, unless Iraq votes to approve such continued deployment, the president of the U.S. should commence the phased redeployment of U.S. Armed Forces from Iraq within 60 days of the Iraq vote."

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