Democrats Get Mixed Results on Iraq Timetable

Congressional Democrats hoping to end U.S. involvement in the war in Iraq move forward with a House funding bill that includes a deadline for a U.S. troop pullout. But Senate Republicans thwarted a binding resolution that included a timeline for redeployment offered by Senate Democrats.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

Democrats took steps in Congress today to end U.S. involvement in the war in Iraq. In the House, they moved on a funding bill that sets a deadline for a U.S. troop pullout. And Senate Democrats cleared the way for a vote on a binding resolution with a timeline for redeployment.

NPR's David Welna reports from the Capitol.

DAVID WELNA: Although every Republican on the House Appropriations Committee voted against it, there were more than enough votes from Democrats to approve a $120-billion emergency funding bill for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And the reason why Republicans closed ranks against the measure was a Democratic-sponsored provision requiring that most U.S. forces be out of Iraq by September 2008. Pennsylvania Democrat Jack Murtha said setting such deadlines is the only way to force a transition that President Bush has so far been unwilling to embrace.

Representative JACK MURTHA (Democrat, Pennsylvania): We want to change the direction. We want to give the Iraqis the incentive to do what they need to do. They need to take over this war and get our Americans out of this - between this civil war.

WELNA: Still, even if the spending bill also gets approved by the full House, it faces bleak prospects in the Senate and a veto threat from the White House. Meanwhile, in the Senate, Democrats try pushing through a binding resolution. It sets a goal of having most U.S. forces out of Iraq by April of next year, five months earlier than the House deadline.

Michigan Democrat Carl Levin said the pullout would get started even sooner.

Senator CARL LEVIN (Democrat, Michigan): By beginning a phased redeployment of American forces in four months, the resolution before us would force the Iraqi leaders to face reality.

WELNA: But unlike earlier attempts to go on record opposing President Bush's announced troop buildup in Iraq, Democrats made no effort this time to draft a bipartisan proposal with Republicans who are also critical of the war. And many Republicans who support the president's Iraq policies argue that setting a timeline would be tantamount to the U.S. giving up in Iraq. Here's Missouri Republican Christopher Bond.

Senator CHRISTOPHER BOND (Republican, Missouri): Despite many people's dissatisfaction with the war, I don't think a majority of Americans want us to withdraw, to retreat and admit defeat.

WELNA: Still, the fact that Senate Republicans chose not to block an Iraq debate - as they did twice before - could be an indication of two things. One is that some members of the GOP caucus feel they're paying too high a political price by appearing to defend an unpopular war. But the other possibility is that Republican leaders feel more confident they can keep Democrats from passing measures on Iraq that are binding, using the argument that such measures would undermine troops on a battlefield.

The next big test for whether the Senate will assert its will over Iraq policy will likely come when the war funding bill is taken up by the Senate, probably later this month.

David Welna, NPR News, The Capitol.

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