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House Democrats Push War Funding Bill, Troop Drawdown

The U.S. House of Representatives debated a $50 billion war-funding bill for Iraq and Afghanistan Wednesday that would also require U.S. troops to start leaving Iraq within 30 days. Two House members discuss the conflict between Congress and the White House over spending priorities.

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    How to spend the money. NewsHour congressional correspondent Kwame Holman begins our coverage.


    Ignoring the president's veto threat, House Democratic leaders late this afternoon prepared their push for a vote on yet another Iraq war funding bill, again with strings attached. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced the strategy yesterday.

    REP. STENY HOYER (D-MD), House Majority Leader: Democrats will continue to push the president to change course in Iraq, as we have been doing from the very first day this session started. And it's long past time for congressional Republicans to put down their rubber stamps, to assess our failing policy in a clear-eyed manner, and to join us in demanding a new direction in Iraq.


    But this morning, Indiana Republican Mike Pence argued it was the Democrats who needed a new direction.

    REP. MIKE PENCE (R), Indiana: But sadly today the House of Representatives will bring an Iraq supplemental bridge fund that once again brings the same tired language mandating withdrawal from Iraq. It seems, Madam Speaker, the Democrats are adding denial to their agenda of retreat and defeat in Iraq.

    Now is not the time to micromanage a widening success in Iraq. Let's give the American soldiers the resources they need to get the job done, see freedom win, and come home safe.


    The Democrats' $50 billion short-term package funds military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan through the spring, but requires troop withdrawals from Iraq begin within 30 days of the bill's enactment, and sets a December 15, 2008, goal for completing withdrawals.

    The bill also mandates troops be fully trained and equipped before they're sent to the war regions, and it prohibits the use of torture against captured combatants.

    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the Senate will take up the same bill, once approved, and that the president can take it or leave it.

    SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), Senate Majority Leader: If the president is not willing to take that with some conditions on it, namely that there should be a beginning of a redeployment in 30 days, that we have a goal of having all of our troops out of there by the end of this year — actually, December 15th — and there are a few other strings on it, then the president won't get his $50 billion. That's pretty clear.


    Arizona Republican Jon Kyl said that strategy would succeed only in hurting the troops.

    SEN. JON KYL (R), Arizona: Our troops have known that, if they don't get funding for their operations in theater, they're not going to have what it needs to do what we have sent them in harm's way to accomplish.

    The majority leader in the Senate said that he will insist on tying that funding to decisions to withdraw troops. Now, that is not the will of this Congress, which has now had over 60 votes on Iraq funding and withdrawal.


    This looming showdown comes on the heels of the president's veto yesterday of a massive domestic spending bill funding education, job training, and health programs, and according to the president, lots of pork barrel spending.

    GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States: Congress needs to cut out that pork, reduce the spending, and send me a responsible measure that I can sign into law.


    In response, Senate Democrat Tom Harkin of Iowa questioned the president's use of the word "responsible."

    SEN. TOM HARKIN (D), Iowa: He seems to have no problem pouring billions of dollars into Iraq for schools, hospitals, job programs, health needs, but when it comes to those priorities here in America, the president says, "No." I think after spending all these billions of dollars on schools, hospitals, job programs, and health needs in Iraq, it's time to start investing some of that money here in America.


    For now, domestic spending and war spending appear to be tightly intertwined, with any attempt to resolve the issues having to wait at least until Congress returns to work after Thanksgiving.