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President Bush Welcomes War Funding Bill

President Bush praised legislation that will continue Iraq war funding without setting a deadline for troop withdrawal. Analysts Mark Shields and David Brooks discuss the compromise that enabled its passage.

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    House Democratic leaders said today their failure to keep a troop withdrawal timeline in the war funding bill would not stop them from relentlessly pressuring President Bush to bring the war to a close. The party's caucus chair, Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, said Democrats expect the result to be a dramatic change of course by early fall.

    REP. RAHM EMANUEL (D), Illinois: … September will be the time of truth. This summer will be very important here in Washington, as the Republicans will be consistently asked to take a vote on bringing an end to the current course in Iraq…

    SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), Senate Minority Leader: I think it's just saying the obvious that the Iraq war is not popular.


    The Senate's top Republican, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, made it clear he, too, sees a course correction in September. That's the same month Army General David Petraeus is expected to brief the president on the progress of his troop surge plan. McConnell implied today the president may be forced to change current policy either way.


    I think that the handwriting is on the wall that we are going in a different direction in the fall, and I expect the president to lead it. In other words, I think he, himself, has certainly indicated he's not happy with where we are.


    In passing the $120 billion war funding bill last night, an overwhelming majority of the Senate agreed the Iraqi government must meet certain benchmarks or risk future U.S. involvement. The legislation requires President Bush to report to Congress in mid-July as to whether the Iraqis are making progress in disarming militias, amending the country's constitution, and dividing oil revenue among the country's ethnic and sectarian groups.

    SEN. PATTY MURRAY (D), Washington: I am not satisfied with the Iraq language in this bill.


    Many Democrats were unhappy the bill did not call for a mandatory drawdown of U.S. troops, but acknowledged that funding the forces took precedence. Majority Whip Dick Durbin…

    SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), Illinois: I will not take my feelings out on the troops that are in the field. I will continue to provide the resources they need to be trained and equipped and rested and ready, to go into battle and to come home safely.


    Republicans, almost all of whom voted for the bill, argued Democrats' efforts to put stronger language into the legislation had wasted several months and actually jeopardized the troops on the ground.

    SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R), Alabama: I'm glad that this long and unfortunate, really, political process has apparently come to an end so that we can now provide the funding for our troops that has been needed for some time. And the failure to do so has created uncertainty, ambiguity, has, I believe, undermined our policies in Iraq in a number of different ways.


    Of the 14 votes against the bill in the Senate, three were Democrats running for their party's presidential nomination, Senators Clinton, Obama and Dodd.

    REP. DAVID OBEY (D), Chair, Committee on Appropriations: I hate this agreement.


    Democrats in the House were far more split on the bill. The anti-war members who promised their constituents to end the conflict were unwilling to vote for a package without mandatory withdrawal timelines.

    California's Barbara Lee was one of 140 Democratic no votes.

    REP. BARBARA LEE (D), California: The president has dug us deep in a hole in Iraq, and it boggles my mind — boggles my mind — that Congress wants to give him another blank check to buy more shovels.


    Speaker Nancy Pelosi, herself a harsh critic of the war, also voted no, but her deputy, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, joined 86 Democrats and a majority of Republicans in passing the bill.

    REP. STENY HOYER (D-MD), House Majority Leader: Today, with this amendment, which includes 18 strong new benchmarks on political security, and economic progress, and other reporting requirements, I believe this Congress has moved the ball forward and begun to hold the administration accountable. Is it as far as we're going to go? It is not. Should we go further? We must.


    Minority Leader John Boehner became emotional as he pleaded with members to support what he said may be a prolonged fight against the terrorists within Iraq.

    REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), House Minority Leader: When are we going to stand up and take them on? When are we going to defeat them? Ladies and gentleman, let me tell you, if we don't do it now, and if we don't have the courage to defeat this enemy, we will long, long regret it.


    The bill, expected to be signed by the president this evening, also contains $17 billion in domestic spending, including a $2.10 increase in the minimum wage. Democrats attached it to the war spending bill to ensure its passage.

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