Congress OKs bill fund­ing war in Iraq with­out timeta­bles

Bush seeks harsher sanc­tions on Iran House, Se­nate pass veto-safe leg­is­la­tion

The Washington Times Weekly - - Front Page - By Joseph Curl By S.A. Miller

Pres­i­dent Bush on May 24 de­manded much tougher sanc­tions against Iran, which the United Na­tions’ nu­clear watch­dog agency says will be ca­pa­ble of build­ing an atomic bomb in as lit­tle as three years.

The pres­i­dent also warned Amer­i­cans to ex­pect a “bloody” sum­mer and “heavy fight­ing” in the months ahead as Iraqi in­sur­gents and al Qaeda launch fierce at­tacks be­fore Army Gen. David H. Pe­traeus, com­man­der of U.S. forces, as­sesses the ef­fec­tive­ness of a mas­sive surge of U.S. troops in Bagh­dad.

“What they’re go­ing to try to do is kill as many in­no­cent peo­ple as they can to try to in­flu­ence the de­bate here at home,” Mr. Bush said

Bothcham­ber­sofCon­gres­sonMay 24 passed a $120 bil­lion war-fund­ing bill with­out troop-with­drawal timeta­bles for Iraq, end­ing a 108-day stand­off with the White House as Democrats for­feited de­mands for a pull­out.

The Demo­cratic lead­er­ship’s painfulde­feat­in­chal­leng­ingPres­i­dent Bush on war pol­icy was ev­i­dent in the 280-142 House vote, with 194 Repub­li­cans and 86 Democrats sup­port­ing the war fund­ing. More than half the Demo­cratic cau­cus, 140 mem­bers, voted against it, as did Repub­li­can Reps. John J. “Jimmy” Dun­can Jr. of Ten­nessee and Ron Paul of Texas.

In the Se­nate, it gar­nered more bi­par­ti­san sup­port to pass 80-14, win­ning “yes” votes from 42 Repub­li­cans,

37 Democrats and one in­de­pen­dent, while 10 Democrats, 3 Repub­li­cans and one in­de­pen­dent voted “no.”

Ear­lier in the day, Mr. Bush ap­plauded the Demo­crat-led Congress for drop­ping “ar­bi­trary timeta­bles for with­drawal” and shav­ing off $4 bil­lion in pork-bar­rel spend­ing that Democrats put in an ear­lier war bill, al­though the pres­i­dent said he wanted to trim more of the re­main­ing $17 bil­lion in do­mes­tic spend­ing in the leg­is­la­tion.

“By vot­ing for this bill, mem­bers of both par­ties can show our troops, and the Iraqis, and the en­emy that our coun­try will sup­port our ser­vice­men and women in harm’s way,” Mr. Bush said at a Rose Gar­den press con­fer­ence.

Af­ter the vote, White House spokesman Alex Co­nant said, “Congress is to be con­grat­u­lated for suc­cess­fully pro­vid­ing our troops with the fund­ing and flex­i­bil­ity they need to pro­tect our coun­try, rather than man­dat­ing ar­bi­trary timeta­bles for mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions.”

“The fact is this is sim­ply the best bill we could put to­gether that the pres­i­dent would sign,” said House Ma­jor­ity Leader Steny H. Hoyer, Mary­landDemo­crat.“Thi­sis­po­lit­i­cal re­al­ity. It is not the bill we wanted.”

The­mas­sivede­fec­tion­sa­mongDemocrats — in­clud­ing a “nay” vote by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Cal­i­for­nia—un­der­scores­thein­tense­pres­sure they are feel­ing from the party’s pow­er­ful anti-war base.

Also, three of the four Demo­cratic sen­a­tors run­ning for pres­i­dent voted against the bill, which has faced a re­cent bar­rage of at­tacks by for­mer Sen. John Ed­wards of North Carolina, who has po­si­tioned him­self as an out­spo­ken anti-war can­di­date.

Sen. Joseph R. Bi­den Jr. of Delaware, a per­sis­tent critic of the war, was the only Demo­cratic can­di­date to vote for the fund­ing.

“It’s time for us to do our part, as well, to sup­port the troops,” he said af­ter the vote.

Theother­hope­fuls—Sens.Hil­lary Rod­hamClintonofNewYork,Barack Obama of Illi­nois and Christo­pher J. Dodd of Con­necti­cut — voted no.

Con­gres­sional of­fices on May 24 were in­un­dated with calls from mem­bers of Code Pink, a fem­i­nist anti-war group.

“They’re stupid if they don’t think it will af­fect the 2008 elec­tion,” Code Pink spokes­woman Gael Mur­phy said.“More­money,more­death,more de­struc­tion — that’s what this vote is.”

The bill also drew the ire of an­ti­war law­mak­ers.

“We are mov­ing back­ward,” said Sen. Russ Fein­gold, Wis­con­sin Demo­crat and one of the cham­ber’s most vo­cal war crit­ics. “We are faced with a spend­ing bill that kicks the can down the road and buys the ad­min­is­tra­tion time.”

Demo­cratic lead­ers say they have not given up the fight to end the war and pre­dict that Repub­li­cans even­tu­ally will join them to op­pose the pres­i­dent. They plan to next chal­lenge Mr. Bush with votes in July on the $481 bil­lion de­fense bud­get re­quest for 2008 and with votes in Septem­ber on the $141 bil­lion war sup­ple­men­tal re­quest for next year.

Mrs. Pelosi called the bill “a baby step” rather than the “gi­ant step” she had hoped for to­ward end­ing the war. She vowed to hold a vote to re­peal the 2002 au­tho­riza­tion for the pres­i­dent to go to war in Iraq.

Al­though free of veto-pro­vok­ing pull­out dead­lines, the bill sets 18 bench­marks for Iraqis, backed up by the threat of los­ing U.S. aid if they do not meet ex­pec­ta­tions.

The bench­marks mea­sure the Iraqi gov­ern­ment’s progress to­ward na­tional rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and in­clude adopt­ing laws to dis­arm mili­tias, con­fer­ring equal le­gal pro­tec­tions to all sects and shar­ing oil rev­enues among the Kurds, Shi’ites and Sun­nis. Un­der the leg­is­la­tion, Mr. Bush must re­port to Congress on the bench­marks in July and Septem­ber, po­ten­tially trig­ger­ing the cut­off of U.S. re­de­vel­op­ment aid to the coun­try. But the pres­i­dent can waive that penalty.

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