Congress OKs war bill sans timeline

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Both chambers of Congress yesterday passed a $120 billion war-funding bill without troop-withdrawal timetables for Iraq, ending a 108-day standoff with the White House as Democrats forfeited demands for a pullout.

The Democratic leadership’s painful defeat in challenging President Bush on war policy was evident in the 280-142 House vote, with 194 Republicans and 86 Democrats supporting the war funding. More than half the Democratic caucus, 140 members, voted against it, as did Republican Reps. John J. “Jimmy” Duncan Jr. of Tennessee and Ron Paul of Texas.

In the Senate, it garnered more bipartisan support to pass 80-14, winning “yes” votes from 42 Republicans, 37 Democrats and one independent, while 10 Democrats, 3 Republicans and one independent voted “no.”

Earlier in the day, Mr. Bush applauded the Democrat-led Congress for dropping “arbitrary timetables for withdrawal” and shaving off $4 billion in pork-barrel spending that Democrats put in an earlier war bill, although the president said he wanted to trim more of the remaining $17 billion in domestic spending in the legislation.

“By voting for this bill, members of both parties can show our troops, and the Iraqis, and the enemy that our country will support our servicemen and women in harm’s way,” Mr. Bush said at a Rose Garden press conference.

After the vote, White House spokesman Alex Conant said, “Congress is to be congratulated for successfully providing our troops with the funding and flexibility they need to protect our country, rather than mandating arbitrary timetables for military operations.”

Mr. Bush, who earlier this month vetoed a war bill with a pullout deadline, could sign the new bill as soon as today, rushing the funds to pay for training and equipment for the troop surge under way in Baghdad.

“The fact is this is simply the best bill we could put together that the president would sign,” said House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat. “This is political reality. It is not the bill we wanted.”

The massive defections among Democrats — including a “nay” vote by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California — underscores the intense pressure they are feeling from the party’s powerful anti-war base.

Also, three of the four Democratic senators running for president voted against the bill, which has faced a recent barrage of attacks by former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, who has positioned himself as an outspoken anti-war candidate.

Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, a persistent critic of the war, was the only Democratic candidate to vote for the funding.

“It’s time for us to do our part, as well, to support the troops,” he said after the vote.

The other hopefuls — Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, Barack Obama of Illinois and Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut — voted no.

Congressional offices yesterday were inundated with calls from members of Code Pink, a feminist anti-war group.

“They’re stupid if they don’t think it will affect the 2008 election,” Code Pink spokeswoman Gael Murphy said. “More money, more death, more destruction — that’s what this vote is.”

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