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Democrats push ahead with troop pullout legislation

Published March 15, 2007


WASHINGTON - Democratic-backed legislation to withdraw U.S. combat troops from Iraq cleared an initial Senate hurdle Wednesday, but Republicans confidently predicted they had the votes to defeat it. President Bush backed them up with a veto threat.

The legislation, calling for combat troops to return home over the next 12 months, "would hobble American commanders in the field and substantially endanger America's strategic objective of a unified federal democratic Iraq," the White House said.

The strong veto message underscored the intensifying struggle between the administration and the new Democratic-controlled Congress, which is determined to end U.S. participation in a war that has claimed the lives of more than 3,100 Americans and cost more than $300-billion.

Democrats in the House and Senate are advancing different bills calling for the withdrawal of troops, and Bush has threatened to veto both.

In the House, Democratic leaders said during the day they were building support behind legislation to require the withdrawal of troops by Sept. 1, 2008, if not sooner. That plan faces its first test vote today in the Appropriations Committee.

By contrast, the Senate measure lacks a firm deadline for an end to U.S. participation in combat. It says a withdrawal should begin within 120 days, "with the goal of redeploying, by March 31, 2008, all United States combat forces from Iraq except" for those needed for noncombat roles.

The only Iraq-related vote of the day was an 89-9 procedural roll call that cleared the way for a formal debate on the legislation in the Senate.

Senate Republicans had previously thwarted two attempts to hold a full-fledged debate over the war.

[Last modified March 15, 2007, 02:25:17]

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