Iraq Bill Heads to President's Desk
Updated: 4/26/07, 1:40 p.m.
President Bush is about to wield the veto pen on funding of the Iraq war.
Chiefly along party lines, the House and Senate have passed a bill that includes a timeline for withdrawal of U.S. troops beginning in October and finishing by April 2008. It includes nonbinding goals for withdrawal and would still provide money for limited operationscounterterrorism and training of Iraqi forcesin 2008.
Republicans assailed their counterparts: Setting a timeline for withdrawal is like holding up a white flag, they charged. No, said Democrats, the bill funds the troops at the level Bush requested and more, and it holds the president accountable for showing progress.
In many ways, the looming showdown is a bit anticlimactic. The two sides have been girding for battle. The rhetoric has been building for weeks, months, maybe since Election Day last November.
The next step is pretty clear.
The bill heads to Bush's desk early next week for an expected speedy veto. It would be only the second of his presidency.
Then the real questions begin.
Democrats, in this proverbial game of chicken, need to figure out what comes next. They could ...
- ... stage a veto override vote, but that'd be a waste of time, Democrats say. After all, the bill barely passed the House and most likely wouldn't have the support there or in the Senate for an override.
- ... as Rep. John Murtha, the Pennsylvania Democrat atop the House Appropriations Committee that oversees defense spending, has suggested, consider a short-term funding option. That would be most likely open to criticism from military officials and Republicans for hamstringing the troops with too much uncertainty. Short-term funding bills of this nature in Congress usually face similar attacks.
- ... push a bill that includes conditions for continuing aid and benchmarks for progress (movement on the oil sharing law, for instance) but no timeline for withdrawal. In that case, Democrats would try to specify the benchmarks as much as possible, and they may have Republican backers.
And then there is the bill that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said he would push, joined by Democratic Sen. Russell Feingold of Wisconsin, which would end funding for the war (with some exceptions) by the end of next March.
If Democrats take a long time charting their next steps, they could face the same accusations they did earlier this month for damaging the military by not providing sufficient and timely funds. That's why some Democrats expect a somewhat speedy next step: a bill that doesn't include a timeline, conceding to the president that point, but surely disgruntling the antiwar base of their party.
We tried to act on your Election Day wishes, the argument may go, but we couldn't get it through a tight Senate and the president. What is certain is that the pressure will continue to ratchet up on the president and Republicans in Congress for the rest of the year, even if the Democrats don't get their way in this battle.