Senate Keeps Timeline in Bill to Fund Iraq Troops In the Senate, Democrats affirm a measure setting a timetable of next spring for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. The deadline is attached to a $122 billion spending bill funding the war for the rest of the fiscal year. President Bush has said he will veto any Iraq legislation containing a time requirement.
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Senate Keeps Timeline in Bill to Fund Iraq Troops

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Senate Keeps Timeline in Bill to Fund Iraq Troops

Senate Keeps Timeline in Bill to Fund Iraq Troops

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

The military needs money for Iraq and Afghanistan, but the question is, will that money come with a deadline?

The Senate is preparing to vote for an extra $122 billion for the Pentagon for this fiscal year. Last week the House approved a similar measure that also sets a goal of late next summer for withdrawal from Iraq. Well, now the senators have to decide if they will include the deadline in their bill. The White House is threatening to veto any measure with a deadline.

NPR's Brian Naylor reports on the chances the president will get to carry out that threat.

BRIAN NAYLOR: The key vote is over whether to strip from the Senate bill language setting a goal for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. Under that provision, troops would have to be out of Iraq by March 31, 2008, and the withdrawal would have to begin within four months of the bill's enactment.

Republican critics trying to remove those deadlines accused Democrats of micromanaging the war. Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona, a leading candidate for his party's presidential nomination and a staunch supporter of the war, strongly denounced the deadlines.

Senator JOHN MCCAIN (Republican, Arizona): This bill should be named the Date Certain for Surrender Act. A second-year cadet at West Point will tell you if you announce to the enemy that you're leaving, it's a recipe for defeat. We are making progress in Iraq and we're making significant progress. To hamstring and to announce that we are leaving is one of the most shameful things I've ever seen.

NAYLOR: But Republicans, while arguing against the language, have decided not to filibuster the bill. They've decided to let the process move forward, acknowledging a negotiated compromise between the Senate and House will likely result in a bill including some set of timetables and that just as likely it will be vetoed by the president.

Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell denied the Republican strategy was for political cover.

Senator MITCH MCCONNELL (Republican, Kentucky): I don't think need we need any political cover here. The issue is perfectly clear. Do you want to provide funding for the troops as Senator McCain has pointed out, and just how much do you want to pork the bill up in the name of the troops in order to get funding for things that ought to be handled in the regular process around here and some would argue maybe aren't immediate emergencies?

NAYLOR: Like their House counterparts, Senate appropriators have added billions to the war-funding bill for non-related matters, including agriculture funds, money to pay for next year's Democratic and Republican political conventions, and for Hurricane Katrina-related relief.

The White House has cited those provisions and the troop withdrawal deadlines as reasons President Bush would veto the measure, prompting this response from Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont.

Senator PATRICK LEAHY (Democrat, Vermont): The president is trying to veto this bill if the troop withdrawal provision is included. That's not surprising for a White House that's stubbornly refused to change course even in the face of dwindling support from the American people whose sons and daughters are dying.

NAYLOR: In fact, a new Pew Research Center poll found 59 percent of those surveyed support the House bill's deadline of August 2008 for withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq. Democrats hope to use that sentiment to ultimately force the president to go along with some sort of withdrawal timeline.

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said he was open to negotiations with the president over a bill he and congressional Democrats could support, but didn't sound overly optimistic.

Senator HARRY REID (Democrat, Nevada): I would hope that he would be willing to work with us in coming up with some language that both bodies could accept. At this stage he has been very non-negotiable, so we'll see what happens.

NAYLOR: Reid said he expected the Senate to complete its work on the war- funding bill perhaps as soon as tomorrow and begin negotiations with the House on a final version of the measure within weeks.

Brian Naylor, NPR News, the Capitol.

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