Congress Reluctantly Passes War-Funding Bill

A bill providing funds for the war in Iraq passes Congress despite misgivings from many who approved it. Democrats who failed to establish a timetable for pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq say this is the best bill they could manage.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Steve Inskeep is out today. I'm Renee Montagne.

Congress has given final approval to a bill to fund the war in Iraq. The $120 billion bill drew more support from Republicans than from majority Democrats. That's because it does not include the troop withdrawal deadlines Democrats wanted and President Bush vetoed.

NPR's David Welna reports.

DAVID WELNA: There was no doubt this White House-blessed bill would pass, still after weeks of bitter wrangling over funding an unpopular war. Last night on the House floor Minority Leader John Boehner was overcome by emotion.

Representative JOHN BOEHNER (Republican, Ohio): After 3,000 of our fellow citizens died at the hands of these terrorists, when are we going to stand up and take them on? When are we going to defeat them?

WELNA: Those words did not sway Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. She compared the war bill to a Rorschach test in which members could see what they wanted.

Representative NANCY PELOSI (Democrat, California; Speaker of the House): So when I look at this inkblot, I see something that does not have adequate guidelines and timetables, something that does not have adequate consequences, and something that does not have my support.

WELNA: A hundred thirty-nine other anti-war House Democrats also opposed the bill. Still, many Democrats did not want to be seen as denying funds for troops in the field. Eighty-six voted for the bill, among them Major Leader Steny Hoyer.

Representative STENY HOYER (Democrat, Maryland): The fact is, this is simply the best bill we could put together and that would be signed. It's a political reality. It is not what we want to pass.

WELNA: Only 10 Senate Democrats opposed the bill, three of them presidential contenders: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and Christopher Dodd. But some longtime opponents of the Iraq war voted for it, including number two Democrat, Dick Durbin.

Senator DICK DURBIN (Democrat, Illinois): The debate will continue over this policy, but our soldiers should never be bargaining chips in this political debate. And that is why I will vote this evening for this bill.

WELNA: Majority Leader Harry Reid did too, but with a caveat.

Senator HARRY REID (Democrat, Nevada; Senate Majority Leader): Senate Democrats will not stop our efforts to change the course of this war until either enough Republicans joins us to reject President Bush's failed policy or we get a new president.

WELNA: David Welna, NPR News, the Capitol.

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