TOPICS > Politics

Senate Approves Spending Bill with Troop Withdrawal

April 26, 2007 at 6:05 PM EST
LISTEN SEE PODCASTS

TRANSCRIPT

KWAME HOLMAN: The Democratic majority’s decision to defy the president and pass a war spending bill with troop withdrawal timelines was made by the American people, according to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), Speaker of the House: What the president doesn’t like about the bill is that it has accountability, something that has been missing in the four years we have been in this war. And the American people are calling for accountability; I hope that the president will heed their call.

KWAME HOLMAN: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he hoped Mr. Bush would sign the bill rather than fight it.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), Senate Majority Leader: It’s a piece of legislation that the president should sign. We don’t want to scuffle with the president.

KWAME HOLMAN: But at the White House, spokeswoman Dana Perino said the president will do as promised when the bill arrives on his desk next week.

DANA PERINO, White House Spokeswoman: For several weeks, the Democrats have known that, if the bill in its current form is sent to him, that he would veto it.

Bill sets timetable for withdrawal

KWAME HOLMAN: The $124 billion measure requires removing combat troops from Iraq beginning as early as July 1st, if the Iraqi government is not disarming militias, amending its constitution, and equitably dividing oil revenue among the country's ethnic and sectarian groups.

If the Iraqis are making progress, the troop withdrawal still would have to begin by October 1st, with a goal of completion by March 28, 2008.

In response, Senate Republicans said Democrats were ensuring defeat in Iraq by focusing on time lines regardless of any progress on the ground. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), Senate Minority Leader: If the Iraqis make progress, we leave. If they don't, we leave. This is not a choice. This is a mandate for defeat that al-Qaida desperately wants.

KWAME HOLMAN: But Virginia Democrat Jim Webb criticized the Republican rhetoric.

SEN. JAMES WEBB (D), Virginia: In respect to these accusations about defeatism and surrender, the question becomes: Defeat by whom? And surrender to whom? We won this war four years ago. The question is when we end the occupation. Iraq has been in turmoil for thousands of years. It will be in turmoil of one kind or another long after we leave.

Senate vote

KWAME HOLMAN: The $124 billion measure requires removing combat troops from Iraq beginning as early as July 1st, if the Iraqi government is not disarming militias, amending its constitution, and equitably dividing oil revenue among the country's ethnic and sectarian groups.

If the Iraqis are making progress, the troop withdrawal still would have to begin by October 1st, with a goal of completion by March 28, 2008.

In response, Senate Republicans said Democrats were ensuring defeat in Iraq by focusing on time lines regardless of any progress on the ground. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), Senate Minority Leader: If the Iraqis make progress, we leave. If they don't, we leave. This is not a choice. This is a mandate for defeat that al-Qaida desperately wants.

KWAME HOLMAN: But Virginia Democrat Jim Webb criticized the Republican rhetoric.

SEN. JAMES WEBB (D), Virginia: In respect to these accusations about defeatism and surrender, the question becomes: Defeat by whom? And surrender to whom? We won this war four years ago. The question is when we end the occupation. Iraq has been in turmoil for thousands of years. It will be in turmoil of one kind or another long after we leave.

House debate

KWAME HOLMAN: Minority Leader John Boehner was one of many Republicans who cited General David Petraeus' contention yesterday that Iraq now is the central front in al-Qaida's global campaign.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER: If we're not willing to take on al-Qaida in Iraq today, when will we? When will we stand up to radical Islam that is spreading all over the world, endangering our allies, and endangering our citizens? When will we stand up and fight?

KWAME HOLMAN: Pennsylvania Democrat John Murtha responded, saying it's easy to talk about fighting a war when you're not in it.

REP. JOHN MURTHA (D), Pennsylvania: One of the previous speakers said, "We." I hear this all the time, "We're fighting, we're fighting terrorists." We're not fighting terrorism! We're sitting here in an air-conditioned place while they're out there in dust!

KWAME HOLMAN: Murtha's Pennsylvania colleague, first-term Democrat Patrick Murphy, served in Iraq as a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division, which just this week lost nine members to a suicide bomber.

REP. PATRICK MURPHY (D), Pennsylvania: How many more suicide bombs must kill American soldiers before this president offers a timeline for our troops to come home? How many more military leaders must declare the war will not be won militarily before this president demands that the Iraqis stand up and fight for their country?

How many more terrorists will President Bush's foreign policy breed before he focuses on developing a new strategy, a real strategy for fighting and beating al-Qaida? Mr. Speaker, this bill says, "Enough is enough."

KWAME HOLMAN: Democratic leaders are expected to send the funding bill to the White House on Tuesday, coinciding with the fourth anniversary of Mr. Bush's May 1, 2003, speech, during which he declared the end of major combat operations in Iraq.

After the president vetoes the bill, Democratic leaders have indicated they might strip out the withdrawal timelines, but keep the benchmark requirements for the Iraqi government. White House officials haven't said whether the president would find that acceptable.