Democrats Step up Iraq Pullout Pressure

The Democrats in Congress were in high spirits Friday, March 23, after the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee adopted a bill of removing troops from Iraq by March 31, 2008, as they have labored to bridge the divide.

Democrats Step up Iraq Pullout Pressure

The Democratic leaders in Congresswere in high spirits Friday, March 23, after the powerful Senate AppropriationsCommittee adopted a bill of removing troops from Iraq by March 31, 2008, as theyhave labored to bridge the divide between liberal and conservative members ofthe party's Out of Iraq Caucus, The New York Times reported.

"We will be trying to set the country on a newdirection," Democrat David Obey, chairman of the House AppropriationsCommittee and chief author of a Democratic bill aiming at withdrawing US troopsfrom Iraq by March 31 2008, commented on the bold move taken by the Senatesister commission.

"I am getting a bit tired of those who wereconsistently wrong from the beginning on the issue of Iraq, lecturingthose of us who were consistently right from the beginning in our opposition tothis war," the Wisconsin Democrat added.

The Senate bill is expected to be considered by thefull Senate next week.

The US House of Representatives began Thursday,March 22, debate on another legislation to bring all American combat troops outof Iraqby Sept. 1, 2008.

The Senate and House bills tie nearly nearly $100billion in combat funds to a 2008 pullout.

The House and Senate versions must be reconciled,then the president must sign the measure for it to become law.

If the president disapproves, then each chamber musthave a two-thirds majority supporting a bill to override a presidential veto.

President George W. Bush on Thursday urged Congressto pass his spending bill without restrictions.

"Congress needs to get that bill out as quicklyas possible, without a lot of extra spending and without a lot of strings toit," the president said.

The White House also warned that the Democratic planwould face a presidential veto, and had a "zero chance" of becominglaw.

But Democratic Majority Leader in the House StenyHoyer said the measure would help end a disastrous Iraq policy.

"It is long past time for this Congress toinsist on accountability and a new direction in Iraq. We will no longer be a rubberstamp for a failing policy that has cost us so much in blood andtreasure," Hoyer said.

Growing Opposition

Democratic leaders in both chambers have scrambledto shore up enough support to pass their Iraq legislation, the Timessaid.

House Democratic leaders kept scrambling to naildown the 218 votes they need to pass the bill.

They fear that a few undecided lawmakers — on theleft and right — could jeopardize their plan.

When the House opened its war debate on Thursday,the loudest opposition was beginning to fade, particularly from liberals.

Leaders of the Out of Iraq Caucus gave theirblessing to a handful of Democrats to change their votes, saying it was not intheir interest to impede the measure.

The paper said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, aCalifornia Democrat, used an array of persuasion techniques as she walkedthrough the House chamber on Thursday, seeking out undecided legislators inhopes of securing the 218 votes. .

"Supporting this war with strings attached andno real enforcement really does keep our troops in harm's way," saidDemocratic Representative Barbara Lee, a key member of Congress's 73person-strong Out of IraqCaucus.

House Republicans were expected to overwhelminglyoppose the legislation because of the troop withdrawal timetable and otherconditions being placed on the funds.

"This is just the opening round of severalmonths of discussions," House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio said, predictingthat in the end Congress would provide the money without conditions.

Congress is trying to finish the emergencywar-funding bill by next month, when the Pentagon says it will run out of moneyto keep about 140,000 troops in Iraq.

Sen. Daniel Inouye, a Hawaii Democrat, said it wasnot worth continuing to spend US lives and money in Iraq.

"At the end how many of us can truly stillbelieve that we will emerge victorious with a Jeffersonian democracy on the Tigris banks?" asked Inouye, who lost an arm inWorld War Two.

At least 3,203 American, 133 British and 124 otherforeign soldiers have also died since the beginning of the US-led invasion onMarch 20, 2003.

A new poll showed USpublic opinion had soured further, with just 32 percent of Americans sayingthey favored the Iraqwar, compared to 72 percent on the eve of invasion.


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