WASHINGTON – House Democrats pushed through a $50 billion bill for the Iraq war Wednesday night that would require President Bush to start bringing troops home in coming weeks with a goal of ending combat by December 2008.
The legislation, passed 218-203, was largely a symbolic jab at Bush, who already has begun reducing force levels but opposes a congressionally mandated timetable on the war. And while the measure was unlikely to pass in the Senate – let alone overcome a presidential veto – Democrats said they wanted voters to know they weren’t giving up.
“The fact is, we can no longer sustain the military deployment in Iraq,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
The White House pledged to veto the bill, and Republicans said they would back the president.
“In addition to infringing upon the president’s constitutional authority as commander in chief, the bill would mandate a precipitous withdrawal of troops that could increase the probability that American troops would have to one day return to Iraq to confront an even more dangerous enemy,” an administration statement said.
The bill represents about a quarter of the $196 billion Bush requested for combat operations in the 2008 budget year, which began Oct. 1.
It would compel an unspecified number of troops to leave Iraq within 30 days, a requirement Bush is already on track to meet as he begins in coming weeks to reverse the 30,000 troop buildup he ordered earlier this year. It also sets a goal of ending combat by Dec. 15, 2008, and states that money included in the bill should be used to redeploy troops and “not to extend or prolong the war.”
The measure also would set government-wide standards on interrogation, effectively barring the CIA from using such harsh techniques as waterboarding, which simulates drowning.