House Set to Vote on Compromise War-Funds Bill

Vice President Dick Cheney and Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS). Credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images.

Vice President Dick Cheney (left) speaks as Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS) looks on at the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday. Cheney called Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's (D-NV) call for a pullout of troops in Iraq "unfortunate," "uninformed" and "misleading." Mark Wilson/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). Credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) speaks about funding for the Iraq war on Tuesday in Washington, D.C. Reid said Vice President Dick Cheney was President Bush's attack dog after Cheney accused Reid of having a defeatist attitude on the Iraq war. Mark Wilson/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Mark Wilson/Getty Images
U.S. Gen. David Petraeus and Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki. Credit: PATRICK BAZ/AFP/Getty Images.

Gen. David Petraeus (right), America's top commander in Iraq, greets Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Ramadi, Iraq, on March 13, 2007. Patrick Baz/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Patrick Baz/AFP/Getty Images

Gen. David Petraeus visits Capitol Hill Wednesday as the House of Representatives votes on a measure that will directly affect his mission in Iraq. The bill would fund the war for the rest of the fiscal year, while also setting a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from the country.

On Tuesday, President Bush repeated his promise to veto the bill because of that timeline — and both sides engaged in some heated rhetoric.

The nastiest exchange occurred in the hallway outside the Senate chamber. Vice President Dick Cheney has lunch with Senate Republicans just about every Tuesday in the Capitol, but no one recalled him ever stopping to talk to reporters on his way out, until yesterday:

"Some Democratic leaders seem to believe that blind opposition to the new strategy in Iraq is good politics," Cheney said. "Senator Reid himself has said that the war in Iraq will bring his party more seats in the next election. It is cynical to declare that the war is lost because you believe it gives you political advantage."

Cheney was referring to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the Democrat from Nevada, who has an office steps away from the microphone where Cheney launched his barbed attack. A few moments later, Reid stepped out of that office and replied to the vice president with some barbs of his own.

"The president sends out his attack dogs often, also known as Dick Cheney, and he was here again today attacking not only me, but the Democratic Caucus," Reid said.

There's a bit of back story: Last week, Reid said the war in Iraq was lost. Not all Democrats would go that far, but almost all do feel it's time to end U.S. involvement in Iraq.

The measure the House votes on Wednesday — and the Senate is expected to take up tomorrow — sets a non-binding goal of spring 2008 for the troops to be out, and orders the withdrawal to begin as soon as July 2007. President Bush has repeatedly said he will veto the measure. Tuesday, he blasted Democrats' determination to send the bill to him anyway.

"They chose to make a political statement," he said. "That's their right, but it is wrong for our troops and it's wrong for our country. To accept the bill proposed by the Democratic leadership would be to accept a policy that directly contradicts the judgment of our military commanders."

That charge touched a nerve with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat from California.

"I thought when the president accused us of politics in this very thoughtful bill that it was beneath the dignity of the issue were talking about here," she said. "The war in Iraq is the biggest ethical issue facing our country."

While the president is sending Petraeus to brief lawmakers on the progress of the surge in Iraq, Democrats are fighting back with quotes from their own list of retired generals who support the Democrats' bill to withdraw forces from the country.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, a founding member of the Out of Iraq Caucus, predicted that nothing she might hear from Petraeus would deter her from supporting the withdrawal measure.

"We've had absolutely the worst weeks ever both in terms of U.S. troops and Iraqis and Baghdad is just a mess," she said.

Earlier in the drawn-out debate over war funding, the House approved a bill that set a firm date for withdrawal. The compromise measure lawmakers take up Wednesday is somewhat weaker in that respect, giving it a chance to win support from Senate Democrats.

Still, Rep. Jim McGovern says he will support the compromise, even though the Democrat from Massachusetts wants the troops out now.

"Those of us who are against the war really have no choice if we were to vote down this conference report and give the president what he wants," McGovern said.

What does Bush want? "A victory ... that will be an affirmation for him that somehow his policy of surge and escalation is what is desired," McGovern said.

The House vote is likely to be close, with little Republican support expected. All the harsh rhetoric of the past few days seems to have hardened the positions of both sides.

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