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Bush Pledges to Veto Bill Withdrawing Iraq Troops

Reuters
Friday, 23 Mar 2007 | 3:16 PM ET

The U.S. House of Representatives on Friday voted to impose a Sept. 1, 2008, deadline for withdrawing all American combat troops from Iraq, prompting a quick veto promise from President George W. Bush.

In a mostly partisan 218-212 vote, House Democrats succeeded in attaching the deadline to legislation authorizing more than $124 billion in emergency funds, mostly for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan this year.

The narrow margin of the vote was far short of what Democrats would need to override any presidential veto.

But the vote was a significant victory for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and her fellow Democrats who took control of Congress in last November's elections on a pledge to end the increasingly unpopular war in Iraq.

Bush, who as commander-in-chief does not want Democratic lawmakers meddling in his handling of the war, condemned the House vote.

"They set rigid restrictions that would require an army of lawyers to interpret. They set an arbitrary date for withdrawal with regard for conditions on the ground. And they tacked on billions in pet projects that have nothing to do with winning the war on terror," Bush said.

But most House Democrats, who are geared up to do battle with Bush in the final two years of his presidency, disagreed during a spirited debate on the House floor.

Pelosi said the country had "lost faith" in Bush's handling of the war, adding, "The American people do not support a war without end and neither should this Congress."

The Senate could vote as early next week on its version of the war-spending bill and a deadline for withdrawing.

Rep. David Obey of Wisconsin, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said a vote for the spending bill would mean "that we're going to end the permanent, long-term, dead-end babysitting service. That's what we are trying to do."

Pelosi had labored to round up the 218 votes needed to pass the controversial bill in the 435-member House. She had to maneuver around opposition from liberals and moderates in her Democratic Party.

"It's a historic moment for our party and a historic moment for our country," Pelosi said.

All but two House Republicans voted against the legislation, which they say will tie military leaders' hands and contribute to failure in Iraq.

House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio warned, "We have no choice but to win. If we fail in Iraq, you'll see the rise even further and faster of radical terrorism all around the world."

Mandatory Deadline

While the legislation would provide emergency funding for U.S. troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan for the rest of this year, it lays out timetables for withdrawing combat troops in Iraq, linked to that government's progress in securing its country and other benchmarks.

The House vote marked the first time either chamber of Congress moved to impose a mandatory deadline for ending the U.S. combat role in the war Bush launched in early 2003.

Overall, the bill provides more than $124 billion, including domestic funds for farmers, veterans' health care and continuing rebuilding Gulf Coast states hit by hurricanes.

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