Senate Enters War-Spending Debate Senate debate begins on a $122 billion war-spending bill. The measure would require a phased pullout of U.S. troops from Iraq, much like a House bill passed last week. President Bush insists he will veto any legislation tied to a timetable for withdrawal.
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Senate Enters War-Spending Debate

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Senate Enters War-Spending Debate

Senate Enters War-Spending Debate

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It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.


And I'm Renee Montagne.

From Washington to Baghdad, lawmakers are debating the next steps in the war in Iraq.

INSKEEP: In Iraq's capital, lawmakers may soon consider a step toward reconciliation. The plan would let most members of Saddam Hussein's ruling party return to their old jobs. The only exceptions would be top regime members or people accused of crimes.

Now the U.S. has been pressing for that measure as part of a political settlement for Iraq. It is believed that Iraq's violence was made worse when the Sunni Arabs, who once ruled the country, were thrown out of work.

MONTAGNE: In the U.S. capital, the Senate is considering emergency war spending. The measure includes $122 billion in emergency funds. At the insistence of Democrats, it also requires phased U.S. troop withdrawals from Iraq. The House has already approved the demand to withdraw combat forces by September of next year. If either measure becomes law, President Bush would have to decide whether to make good on a threat of a veto.

NPR's David Welna reports.

DAVID WELNA: As debate got underway yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid seemed to relish the prospect of President Bush issuing a veto against funding for a war that the president himself chose to start. Reid described on the Senate floor how one of the staffers, a colonel on the Nevada National Guard, got a message from a colleague in Iraq after the House voted last Friday to set a deadline for pulling troops out of Iraq.

Senate HARRY REID (Democrat, Nevada; Senate Majority Leader): And he said, what happened in the House and what we put in our bill is good for the troops. This is a soldier e-mailing my friend for Iraq because it lets the Iraqi government know that we're serious. And he went on to say the deadline is important for Iraqi people, and the soldiers and Iraqi people know that.

WELNA: The deadline for pulling out combat forces in the Senate spending bill is softer than what the House approved because it's a non-binding goal. But it's also five months earlier, and it calls for pulling forces back from what many now see as a civil war in Iraq.

Robert Byrd, the Democrat who chairs the appropriations committee that drafted the spending bill, reminded colleagues of the constitutional power Congress wields over policies in Iraq.

Senator ROBERT BYRD (Democrat, Virginia): Power of the purse. Money, money. Money talks.

WELNA: Siding with the president, the Appropriation Committee's top Republican, Thad Cochran, set the stage for a showdown in the Senate. He introduced an amendment striking all references to troop withdrawals from the bill.

Senator THAD COCHRAN (Republican, Mississippi): Congress should not be tying the hands of our commanders or limiting their flexibility to respond to the threats on the battlefield. The inclusion of unnecessarily restrictive language will ensure a presidential veto.

WELNA: And Arizona Republican Jon Kyl noted that while the troop withdrawal deadline in the Senate bill may not be binding, its call for phased troop redeployments definitely is.

Senator JON KYL (Republican, Arizona): This isn't just a wish that we'd redeploy. We begin, we quote, "shall commence the phased redeployment not later than 120 days after the day of enactment of this act." And the goal is to have it all done by March 31 of next year. That is so destructive in the middle of a war that I just can't believe my colleagues would actually contemplate doing it.

WELNA: Still, Kyl acknowledged he and his fellow Republicans are unwilling to block the war spending bill with a filibuster. What's more, he noted that even if they do manage to strip the troop withdrawal timetable from the Senate bill, the House-approved binding withdrawal deadline will likely end up in the final version of the bill that goes to the White House.

Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman, who now calls himself an independent Democrat, said Democrats are simply postponing enactment of must-pass legislation that's free of timetables.

Senator JOE LIEBERMAN (Democrat, Connecticut): Because everyone in this chamber knows that the president of the United States could not have been more clear that if this section, Section 1315, is in this bill and it is sent to his desk - that he will veto it. In my opinion, he should veto it.

WELNA: Lieberman said everyone knows neither the House nor the Senate has enough votes to override a presidential veto. Still, Majority Leader Reid insisted Democrats are simply carrying out a mandate they got at the polls from a war-weary nation.

Sen. REID: Iraq language is based on a simple premise: Iraq can be won only politically. In short, it offers a responsible strategy in Iraq that the American people asked for last November 7th.

WELNA: Democrats seem confident that in this fight, public opinion's on their side.

David Welna, NPR News.

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