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Senate Defeats Troop Withdrawal Deadline

The Senate voted 50-48 against a Democratic measure to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq by March 2008, but overwhelmingly passed another resolution pledging support for the troops. Sens. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., give their views on the Iraq debate.

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    Anti-war protesters rallied outside and inside the halls of Congress today, as the Iraq war took center stage on both sides of the Capitol.

    At a meeting of the House Appropriations Committee, Democrats moved forward on a $124 billion emergency spending bill that also calls for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq by September 2008, and even sooner if the Iraqi government does not meet certain requirements.

    Chairman David Obey.

    REP. DAVID OBEY (D), Chair, Committee on Appropriations: It sets a timeline for bringing the United States' participation in Iraq to an end based on the conduct of Iraqi politicians and religious leaders.


    Ninety-five billion dollars in the bill is devoted to Iraq and Afghanistan, but the bill would set hard deadlines for the Iraqi government to meet a series of benchmarks President Bush laid out last month.

    For instance, by July 1, 2007, the president must certify to Congress that the Iraqi government is making progress on providing its own security, allocating oil revenues, and creating a fair system for amending its constitution.

    By Oct. 1 of this year, the president must certify that those benchmarks have been met. If those certifications cannot be made, troop withdrawal would begin immediately and have to be completed within 180 days.

    And regardless of the benchmarks, troop withdrawal would begin no later than March 1, 2008, to be completed within six months.

    The top Republican on the committee, Jerry Lewis, said the benchmarks would tie the president's hands in a time of war.

    REP. JERRY LEWIS (R), California: It ought to respect, not micromanage, our combatant commanders in whom we place the ultimate responsibility for processing and prosecuting military actions.


    Many Democrats want U.S. troops out of Iraq right away. New York's Jose Serrano, who previously called for immediate withdrawal, agonized over his committee vote today.

    REP. JOSE SERRANO (D), New York: I want this war to end. I don't want to go to any more funerals. And so I will take whatever heat is given to one of the only three who voted to get out immediately and support this bill today and support it on the floor next week.


    Committee Republicans had hoped to eliminate the benchmark requirements in the bill, but were unsuccessful. The debate moves to the full House next week.

    Meanwhile, in the Senate, a binding resolution that would advocate withdrawal of U.S. troops by April 2008 failed to gather a needed bipartisan majority of 60 votes. South Carolina's Lindsey Graham led Republicans in charging that the withdrawal resolution, sponsored by Majority Leader Harry Reid, would be a costly mistake.

    SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), South Carolina: If the Senate did pass a resolution setting a specific date, March of next year, where we will begin to redeploy if certain things are not done in Iraq, then I am convinced that in the Mideast it will be taken as a sign of weakness, not strength.


    Republicans defeated the resolution on a largely party-line vote.

    But the parties came together on two non-binding resolutions, one authored by New Hampshire Republican Judd Gregg, which opposed any future cutoff of funding for troops in the field, and another from Washington State's Patty Murray, which encouraged general support for the troops.