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STEVE INSKEEP, host:
And I'm Steve Inskeep.
President Bush is threatening to veto any legislation that sets a timetable for leaving Iraq, and Democrats in Congress seem prepared to hold him to that. Both the House and Senate have approved timetables. The latest vote came in the Senate, which in the mostly party line vote of 50-48 approved a goal to leave Iraq within a year.
NPR's Brian Naylor reports.
BRIAN NAYLOR: It was the first time the Senate had gone on record in favor of a timetable for a withdrawal from Iraq and the outcome of yesterday's vote was a bit of a surprise. Earlier this month, Senate Democrats couldn't muster the votes for a timetable. But yesterday they gained support from two Republicans, including Chuck Hagel of Nebraska.
Senator CHUCK HAGEL (Republican, Nebraska): There will be no victory or defeat for the United States in Iraq. There will not be a military solution to Iraq. Iraq belongs to the 25 million Iraqis who live there. It doesn't belong to the United States. Iraq is not a prize to be won or lost.
NAYLOR: Gordon Smith of Oregon also crossed the aisle to vote for the timetable. It's nonbinding. It sets only a goal of March 31, 2008, for the withdrawal, which would begin four months after the bill's enactment. Connecticut independent Joseph Lieberman, a staunch supporter of the war, opposed the timetable.
Senator JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (Democrat, Connecticut): This congressionally ordered withdrawal of our troops from Iraq would essentially be giving up on our cause in Iraq just when our prospects are picking up there. It would snatch defeat from the jaws of progress in Iraq today.
NAYLOR: Opponents said the measure amounted to micromanaging the war and would give a timetable to insurgents, who they said would sit back and wait for U.S. forces to leave then resume their attacks. Republican John Warner of Virginia said even a non-binding timetable would send a sound all over the world.
Senator JOHN WARNER (Republican, Virginia): It would be the bugle of retreat. It would be echoed and repeated from every minaret throughout Iraq: The coalition forces have decided to take the first step backwards.
NAYLOR: The timetable is attached to a bill providing some $122 billion to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for the rest of the fiscal year, along with a host of domestic programs ranging from agriculture relief to money for the parties' political conventions next year.
Opponents have denounced the additional money as pork, but it was the Iraq provisions that drew most of the debate yesterday. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says the goal for a withdrawal sends a message to the White House.
Senator HARRY REID (Democrat, Nevada; Senate Majority Leader): This war is not worth the spilling of another drop of American blood. As it stands, this emergency legislation before this body tonight will send a signal to our president that it's time for a new direction.
NAYLOR: The White House, which dispatched Vice President Cheney to the Capitol in case he was needed to break a tie, immediately denounced the Senate vote. In a statement, it said the president, quote, "is disappointed that the Senate continues down a path with a bill that he will veto and has no chance of becoming law."
The Senate vote, combined with the approval by the House last week of a spending bill containing an August 2008 deadline for a withdrawal from Iraq, puts the Congress on a collision course with the White House. While Democrats know they don't have the votes to override a veto, they do have the leverage of popular sentiment against the war and in favor of a timetable. They say they're willing to negotiate with the president, though they don't hold out much hope he'll go along. Final passage of the funding measure is expected as soon as today.
Brian Naylor, NPR News, the Capitol.
INSKEEP: If you're wondering why the Senate voted for an Iraq timetable, NPR's senior Washington editor Ron Elving tells us you can look no further than the state of Nebraska. Read his "Watching Washington" column at npr.org.
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