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Iraq issue divides Democrats, too

Congress' funding talks continue today, but even a deal won't end debate.

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published May 18, 2007


WASHINGTON - Move over Republicans. Democrats, too, are divided over Iraq, the issue that increasingly overshadows all others in Congress and the campaign for the White House.

In both parties, it is as if public sentiment is moving so quickly that the politicians cannot find the safe ground they covet.

"It was considered absolute heresy four months ago" to cut off war money, Democratic Sen. Russell Feingold of Wisconsin said this week - a few minutes after 28 Democrats voted to do so effective March 31, 2008.

That mirrored last week's vote in the House, where 169 Democrats lined up behind a plan to withdraw all U.S. combat troops within nine months.

The legislation failed in both cases. Republicans voted nearly unanimously against the bills despite concern about being saddled any longer with responsibility for an unpopular war.

For now, Democratic leaders must mute their opposition to the war long enough to seek a compromise with Republicans and the Bush administration on a bill to pay for military operations through Sept. 30. Those talks began in earnest Thursday when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., met with White House chief of staff Josh Bolten and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio planned to join the talks today. Democrats are expected to suggest legislation that sets standards for the Iraqi government to meet, effectively jettisoning their demand for a troop withdrawal timeline.

"We'll work through something we can all live with, " predicted President Bush, whose veto of an earlier bill was easily sustained by House Republicans.

Democrats hope to pass the bill before Congress begins a Memorial Day vacation next week.

Then they will begin challenging Bush and his GOP allies in Congress again.