House approves April troop pullout

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The Democrat-led House yesterday passed a bill to withdraw most U.S. troops from Iraq by April — gaining two new Republican supporters in three months but leaving it well shy of the votes needed to override President Bush’s promised veto.

Democrats said the 223-201 vote reflected growing public opposition to the war and an effort to pull troops from the carnage of a “civil war.”

“We will repeat that judgment legislatively as often as necessary, hopefully with an increasing level of support from our Republican colleagues,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat.

Ten Democrats voted against the measure — four fewer than the 14 who opposed withdrawal dates in March. Republicans voted against the measure by a 191-4 margin.

Republicans declared the lack of a veto-proof majority a victory and decried the vote as a meaningless political stunt, as Mr. Bush urged the American public to remain steadfast or risk turning Iraq over to terrorists.

“This is not leadership. This is negligence,” said House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican.

Mr. Bush has threatened to veto this bill or any other that tries to change military strategy before a September report from Gen. David H. Petraeus on the effects of the troop surge as, among other things, an infringement on his commander-in-chief powers.

“I don’t think Congress ought to be running the war. I think they ought to be funding the troops,” Mr. Bush said yesterday.

Reps. John J. “Jimmy” Duncan Jr. of Tennessee and Jo Ann Emerson of Missouri were the two new Republicans to support the Democrats’ effort to alter Mr. Bush’s war strategy. Republican Reps. Walter B. Jones of North Carolina and Wayne T. Gilchrest of Maryland again voted with the Democrats.

Some Democrats criticized the bill as well, saying it does not do enough to end the war.

“This bill will not end the occupation,” said Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich, Ohio Democrat, and several other antiwar lawmakers who favor cutting off all funding for forces in Iraq.

The measure, sponsored by Rep. Ike Skelton, Missouri Democrat and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, calls for the Pentagon to begin withdrawing troops within 120 days and to leave a limited presence in Iraq by April 1.

It is similar to an amendment attached to the emergency war-funding bill Mr. Bush vetoed. That bill, which passed 218-212, called for a total withdrawal by Sept. 1, 2008, and established a series of benchmarks for the administration to meet, including establishing laws to disarm militias and sharing oil revenue among the Kurds, Shi’ites and Sunnis.

The White House yesterday released the first of two reports required by Congress that showed Iraqis have made “satisfactory” progress on about half of 18 benchmarks.

Yesterday’s vote came as the Senate prepares to vote next week on a troop-pullout measure — less than two months after it failed to pass a similar measure.

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