Democrats deny war bill defeat


Summary

Party leaders insisted their weeks-long standoff with Mr Bush over an emergency war budget bill had curtailed his war powers as never before, and pledged to carry on the fight to bring US soldiers home in the months to come.

But rival Republicans crowed they were on the verge of forcing Congress’s
Democratic masters to pass an Iraq war emergency budget stripped of timelines, or what they call “surrender dates.”

“I don’t think there’s any way you could stretch, saying whatever we decide to do in this legislation is a defeat,” Senate Majority leader Harry Reid told reporters.

“For heaven’s sakes, look where we’ve come. We have come a long, long ways.”

Senator Reid said the final shape of the joint bill between the House of Representatives and the Senate had not been decided, but late on Monday, congressional sources said withdrawal timelines would not be in the measure.

Mr Bush has vowed never to accept such constraints and vetoed a previous 124-billion dollar spending bill because it included such mechanisms.

Mr Reid signalled that the final measure could mirror a Republican-backed amendment passed last week and accepted by the White House, which would require President Bush to report to Congress on progress in Iraq in July and September.

The bill, framed by Senator John Warner also raises the prospect of the Iraqi government forfeiting non-military financial aid if it fails to reach a set of political and security benchmarks.

Senator Reid derided the bill last week as “weak” but on Tuesday said any acceptance by the White House of such terms would mark an important step forward in Democratic strategy.

“If that’s all there is, it’s a lot more than the president ever expected he’d have to agree to.”

Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, meanwhile said the chamber appeared ready to “get the bill to the president for signature without a surrender date.”

But there was immediate anger from the anti-war wing of the Democratic party, and signs the party may need to rely on Republican votes in both chambers to get the bill passed.

The proposed budget bill was expected to be given to House Democrats on Tuesday evening, and due to come to a vote on Thursday. The Senate would then follow up Thursday night or Friday.

Democratic leaders upped the ante in talks with the White House on Friday, again insisting on the need for a date for troop withdrawals to begin – though offering Mr Bush the power to waive the requirement.

But by Tuesday, they appeared to accept that without veto-proof majorities in Congress, they can ultimately do little to force Mr Bush’s hand.

The White House, which spent the weekend negotiating the terms of the new bill with Democratic leaders, declined to give details.

Though details of the bill were sketchy, Democratic sources said it included some type of political and security benchmarks the Iraqi government would be required to meet.

There were also reportedly elements on enforcing troop readiness standards and an attached portion raising the minimum wage of US workers, apparently in an attempt to appease anti-war liberals.

Democratic strategists will now turn to frustrating Mr Bush’s war plans in several defence funding bills due before each chamber in the next few months.


Party leaders insisted their weeks-long standoff with Mr Bush over an emergency war budget bill had curtailed his war powers as never before, and pledged to carry on the fight to bring US soldiers home in the months to come.

But rival Republicans crowed they were on the verge of forcing Congress’s
Democratic masters to pass an Iraq war emergency budget stripped of timelines, or what they call “surrender dates.”

“I don’t think there’s any way you could stretch, saying whatever we decide to do in this legislation is a defeat,” Senate Majority leader Harry Reid told reporters.

“For heaven’s sakes, look where we’ve come. We have come a long, long ways.”

Senator Reid said the final shape of the joint bill between the House of Representatives and the Senate had not been decided, but late on Monday, congressional sources said withdrawal timelines would not be in the measure.

Mr Bush has vowed never to accept such constraints and vetoed a previous 124-billion dollar spending bill because it included such mechanisms.

Mr Reid signalled that the final measure could mirror a Republican-backed amendment passed last week and accepted by the White House, which would require President Bush to report to Congress on progress in Iraq in July and September.

The bill, framed by Senator John Warner also raises the prospect of the Iraqi government forfeiting non-military financial aid if it fails to reach a set of political and security benchmarks.

Senator Reid derided the bill last week as “weak” but on Tuesday said any acceptance by the White House of such terms would mark an important step forward in Democratic strategy.

“If that’s all there is, it’s a lot more than the president ever expected he’d have to agree to.”

Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, meanwhile said the chamber appeared ready to “get the bill to the president for signature without a surrender date.”

But there was immediate anger from the anti-war wing of the Democratic party, and signs the party may need to rely on Republican votes in both chambers to get the bill passed.

The proposed budget bill was expected to be given to House Democrats on Tuesday evening, and due to come to a vote on Thursday. The Senate would then follow up Thursday night or Friday.

Democratic leaders upped the ante in talks with the White House on Friday, again insisting on the need for a date for troop withdrawals to begin – though offering Mr Bush the power to waive the requirement.

But by Tuesday, they appeared to accept that without veto-proof majorities in Congress, they can ultimately do little to force Mr Bush’s hand.

The White House, which spent the weekend negotiating the terms of the new bill with Democratic leaders, declined to give details.

Though details of the bill were sketchy, Democratic sources said it included some type of political and security benchmarks the Iraqi government would be required to meet.

There were also reportedly elements on enforcing troop readiness standards and an attached portion raising the minimum wage of US workers, apparently in an attempt to appease anti-war liberals.

Democratic strategists will now turn to frustrating Mr Bush’s war plans in several defence funding bills due before each chamber in the next few months.