- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 22, 2007

House Democrats yesterday fended off Republican efforts to modify the war-funding bill that calls for U.S. troops to be out of Iraq in 18 months and commenced a war debate laced with attacks on President Bush.

“This bill offers us our best chance of forcing a change in Iraq after four years of mismanagement,” Rep. Doris O. Matsui, California Democrat, said during the floor debate.

She accused Mr. Bush of “recklessness” in adhering to a failed war plan.

Democrats Rep. Peter Welch of Vermont said the troop withdrawal timetable would end “presidential lip service” on the war and Rep. Kathy Castor of Florida accused the president of going to war in pursuit of “oil profits.”

Mr. Bush has said he will veto any bill with a deadline to end the war.

Republicans derided the majority for not allowing amendments to the legislation, a $124 billion emergency war-funding bill containing nearly $10 billion in nonmilitary spending and in pork projects.

Rep. Jerry Lewis of California, ranking Republican on the Appropriations Committee said the Democratic leaderships refusal to allow votes on amendments had ended any remaining vestige of bipartisan cooperation on spending bills.

“All bets are off on getting our committee work done this year,” he said during the floor debate. “The speaker has imposed martial law on the people’s House.”

Republicans also criticized the bill for hamstringing the generals and the president in conducting the war by setting a pullout deadline of March 2008 or earlier if Iraqis fail to meet benchmarks for self-governance.

Democrats have struggled to line up the 218 votes for passage, especially with the party’s anti-war left wing. But many holdouts were starting to call it “the best bill we can do for now,” as Rep. Jim McGovern, Massachusetts Democrat, said.

Reps. Barbara Lee, Lynn Woolsey and Maxine Waters, California Democrats at the forefront of anti-war opposition to the bill, issued a joint statement that “they could not stand in the way of the passage of a bill that would establish a clear timeline for ending the war.”

The bill is scheduled for a vote today.

House Republican leaders are working to ensure that, if the bills pass, the conference committee is united in opposition to Democrats’ plans for a pullout timetable, a Republican aide said.

Meanwhile, the Senate Appropriations Committee yesterday approved a similar $121 billion emergency war-funding bill that includes a pullout timeline and billions of dollars in nonmilitary spending and in pork projects.

The Senate bill revives a deadline for withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq by March 2008 that was rejected by the chamber last week in a bipartisan 50-48 vote. This time, however, the timetable comes with benchmarks for progress that must be met to keep forces in Iraq until the pullout deadline.

The bill is expected to go to the full Senate on Monday.

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