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Democrats are hoping to use the president's request for another $100 billion in war funding to find a way out of Iraq. Leaders in both the House and Senate yesterday presented plans for the Iraq war which set timetables for withdrawing U.S. forces. Both would be binding and that's different from last month's House resolution opposing a troop buildup.
Still, there are Democrats in the House who want more decisive opposition to the war. And Republicans say they'll block any action in the Senate. Here's NPR's David Welna.
DAVID WELNA: House Democrats had struggled for weeks to come up with something showing they understood that the main message of the election that brought them to power was get U.S. troops out of Iraq. And what they settled on was this: using President Bush's request for nearly $100 billion more for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to leverage a change in Iraq policy.
Yesterday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rolled out a kind of smorgasbord Iraq plan aimed at maximizing party support. Titled The U.S. Troop Readiness, Veteran's Health and Iraq Accountability Act, it promises $3.5 billion more for veteran's health care, a deadline for getting troops out of Iraq by September of next year, and a series of benchmarks President Bush would have to certify have been met.
Representative NANCY PELOSI (Democrat, California; Speaker of the House): If those benchmarks are not met or even if they are at some point, calling for the redeployment of U.S. troops out of Iraq so that we can focus more fully on the real war on terror, which is in Afghanistan.
WELNA: The plan also demands that troops be adequately trained and equipped before being deployed to Iraq, though it lets the president waive that requirement. That did not go over well with the more than 70 members of the Out of Iraq Caucus, including Texas Democrat Lloyd Doggett.
Representative LLOYD DOGGETT (Democrat, Texas): It has waivers, exceptions, ands, ifs, ors and buts, all of which appear to leave the determination over our future in Iraq exclusively in the hands of the decider, or the misleader.
WELNA: The Democrats' plan got pummeled from the opposite political side by officials flying down with President Bush to Sao Paolo, Brazil. Presidential adviser Dan Bartlett told reporters, quote, "it would unnecessarily handcuff our generals on the ground, and it's safe to say it's a nonstarter for the president."
House Minority Leader John Boehner was equally caustic.
Representative JOHN BOEHNER (Republican, Ohio): By establishing and telegraphing to our enemy arbitrary timelines for withdrawal, Democrats are mandating failure. Arbitrary timelines are a little more than a roadmap for the terrorists, a tool they'll use to plot their maneuvers against American men and women in uniform.
WELNA: Not to be outdone, Senate Democrats rolled out an Iraq plan of their own by mid-afternoon. It calls for troop redeployments from Iraq to begin within four months of being enacted, and sets a target date of having most if them out by April of next year. It was enough to win over such outspoken war opponents as Wisconsin Democrat Russ Feingold, who refused to back earlier nonbinding resolutions.
Senator RUSS FEINGOLD (Democrat, Wisconsin): This provision that has been agreed to by our caucus is binding. For the first time it has a timetable in place. I called for it in August of 2005, it's not as early as I would like, but it is a timetable not only to begin to get the troops out, but to get the troops out except for very limited purposes.
WELNA: But Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell would not agree to debating the proposal next week, even though Democrats would have allowed consideration of tree Republican proposals on Iraq.
Senator MITCH MCCONNELL (Republican, Kentucky): I don't think we ought to say to our troops in the middle of this new mission that we're not going to support them. And that's what this is all about. We'll get back to the Iraq debate in due time and members of my side of the aisle will be happy to engage. We think this is clearly the most important issue in the country.
WELNA: A disappointed Majority Leader Harry Reid noted the war-spending bill will also come up soon in the Senate.
Senator HARRY REID (Democrat, Nevada): So, we'll have other opportunities to debate Iraq. But at this stage, I'm very disappointed that we're not going to be able to setup a time next week to go forward on this.
WELNA: Still, Democrats in both chambers know a presidential veto likely awaits anything binding they do on Iraq. What may matter most to anti-war constituents is that they tried.
David Welna, NPR News.
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