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Democrats push own plan to withdraw troops from Iraq

They want a deadline. The president promises a veto.

Published March 8, 2007


WASHINGTON - House Democratic leaders unveiled an ambitious plan Thursday to require the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq by August 2008, or earlier if the Iraqi government fails to meet benchmarks for democracy, governance and security.

The plan, to be incorporated into President Bush's latest request of nearly $100-billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, also demands that troops meet the military's own standards for rest and readiness before being sent to Iraq unless the president waives those standards and tells Congress why.

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., introduced his own Iraq resolution, which calls for the president to begin withdrawing U.S. troops within 120 days of enactment, with the goal of having them out of Iraq by March 2008. It also would require Bush to update Congress on the transition every 90 days.

Senate Democratic leaders say they enjoy strong support among their members but with a slim majority they would need Republican help to pass the resolution. Reid said he hopes the GOP will agree to debate it next week, but Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., quickly attacked the measure and said he needs time to confer with his colleagues.

The House version, unveiled after two weeks of internal negotiations, could pass without much GOP support, provided most Democrats back it, and House leaders were hopeful of that Thursday. It seeks to exert some congressional control over events in Iraq, while still giving the president responsibility for the conduct of the war for another year and a half.

It also would require congressional approval before Bush could attack Iran, and seeks to allocate billions of dollars more than the president requested for operations in Afghanistan and for military medical care.

By giving a certain date for withdrawal, Democratic leaders hope it assuages liberals who want the troops home soon - although key liberals announced their own plan Thursday to withdraw them by the end of the year.

With the waivers, Democratic leaders also hope to win conservative colleagues who don't like interfering with the commander-in-chief's authority.

House Republican leaders blasted the plan, and President Bush said he would veto it. Democrats hope support on their side will gel after more discussions, and after the full House Appropriations Committee takes up the measure -and likely tweaks it - next week. A full House vote could come by the end of the month.

"It's an appropriate bill both sides of the aisle could support - we support our troops, and we're demanding accountability from our president," said Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Pa., a former captain in the 82nd Airborne Division and the only Iraq war veteran in Congress. "And, more importantly, we're demanding accountability of the Iraqis."

About new plans by House and Senate Democrats to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq next year.

"I'm opposed to anything that tries to manage the battlefield from the floor of Congress." Rep. C.W. Bill Young of Indian Shores, the top Republican on the subcommittee that oversees defense spending.


"I'm opposed to playing general ... but we know that the policies set forth by the civilian leadership of this country are not working." Rep. Allen Boyd of Monticello, a leader of group of conservative Democrats.

"We believe victory is the only option in Iraq." House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio.

"We heard the American people and our military leaders. We heard our troops and their families. It's time to plan to end a war that this administration has failed to effectively prepare for and execute." Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.

"The latest iteration to make winning the war more difficult." Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

[Last modified March 8, 2007, 22:33:03]

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