Northwest senators split mainly along party lines Thursday in their votes on a $123 billion spending plan for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, plus other pet domestic projects.
All Democrats and Oregon Republican Gordon Smith voted for the spending package and its timeline for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq; Idaho Republicans voted against the bill, which passed 51-47.
President Bush has warned Congress not to delay money to troops in the field but vowed to veto the bill if it reaches him in its present form, with requirements to begin withdrawing troops in 120 days and completing the pullout by next March.
Sen. Larry Craig. R-Idaho, said the Senate’s emergency spending bill sets up “a surrender date.”
“We might as well just throw up the white flag because we are announcing the day we will surrender,” Craig said in a press release.
Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo said the bill sends the wrong message to troops, terrorists and the American public and removes the chance for all strategy, including diplomacy, to work.
“I don’t believe Congress alone is the entity that should be making the decision about troop management in the field,” Crapo said in a prepared statement.
But Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., called it “a major step forward.”
“We are no longer going to idly stand by without any debates, without any discussion, without any consequences and move continuously to increase the war in Iraq,” Murray said in a floor speech after the bill passed. “We’ve said it is time for us as a nation to tell the Iraqi people they need to stand up for themselves.”
Her fellow senator, Democrat Maria Cantwell, said Iraq requires a political solution, not an “open-ended” military one.
“The Iraqis must make the difficult compromises needed to lessen sectarian violence and stabilize Iraq,” Cantwell said in a prepared statement shortly after the vote. “It’s time to transition U.S. troops out of a regular combat role.”
A similar spending bill passed by House Democrats last week requires combat troops to be out by Sept. 1, 2008. The two proposals will go to a conference committee to work out differences on timetables and spending for various programs. But any bill with a timetable for withdrawal would need a two-thirds majority to override Bush’s promised veto.
Craig and other Republicans denounced the extra spending for domestic programs that was added to the bill during deliberations. Even though he agreed with some of those programs, including the continuation of payments to rural schools and counties in timber areas, Craig said it was wrong to put them into the war spending bill.
But Murray countered that the spending included money for wounded troops and veterans of the war, as well as domestic emergencies like homeland security, rebuilding the Gulf Coast from hurricanes, and handling drought or other weather problems in farm country.
There are numerous emergencies across the country, she said, calling for investment “in Americans that have suffered tremendously.”