Democrats face critical vote on Iraq war
By ANNE FLAHERTY, Associated Press Writer 1 hour, 28
WASHINGTON - Democratic presidential contenders on
Capitol Hill will cast critical votes on the
Iraq war this week, when lawmakers decide on a $120
billion bill to keep military operations afloat
through September. The House planned to vote Thursday
with the Senate to follow suit by week's end.
The legislation does not set the deadline for U.S.
troop withdrawals many Democrats wanted. Unable to
achieve the two-thirds majority needed to override one
presidential veto because of such a deadline or the
threat of another Democratic leaders announced
Tuesday they would proceed to provide money for the
war anyway because they wanted to support the troops.
"I believe as long as we have troops in the front
line, we're going to have to protect them," said Sen.
Joseph Biden (news, bio, voting record), D-Del. "We're
going to have to fund them."
Biden was alone among the potential Democratic
candidates in immediately pledging his support for the
Two front-runners, Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New
York and Barack Obama (news, bio, voting record) of
Illinois, declined to say how they intended to vote on
Both have voted against binding timetables for troop
withdrawals in the past, before public sentiment
against the war hardened or they became presidential
contenders. Last week, the two voted to advance
legislation that would have cut off money for U.S.
combat operations by March 31, 2008, cutoff.
Challengers Sen. Christopher Dodd (news, bio, voting
record) of Connecticut and Rep. Dennis Kucinich of
Ohio said they would oppose the measure because in
their view it issued a blank check to President Bush
on the Iraq war.
"Half-measures and equivocations are not going to
change our course in Iraq," Dodd said in a statement.
"If we are serious about ending the war, Congress must
stand up to this president's failed policy now with
clarity and conviction."
The hefty spending bill has become a lightning rod for
political attacks on Bush and his handling of the
deeply unpopular war, which has killed more than 3,400
U.S. troops and cost more than $300 billion. But it
also has exposed a sharp divide among Democrats on how
far Congress should go to end the war.
Democratic candidates are vying for the anti-war vote,
but at the same time do not want to appear as though
they are turning their backs on the military.
The bill includes about $100 billion for military and
diplomatic efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as
$8 billion in domestic projects such as farm aid and
hurricane relief and $9 billion in military-related
spending such as improved health care for service
While the measure does not include a timetable on the
war, it does threaten to withhold U.S. aid dollars for
Iraq if Baghdad fails to make progress on political
and security reforms. The president, however, could
waive that restriction.
Biden said that while he would vote for the measure,
he disagreed with the approach because it could hamper
the Iraqi government's ability to take on more
The legislation resulted after weeks of negotiations
with the White House, which agreed to accept $17
billion in funding not requested by Bush as long as
there were not restrictions on the military campaign.
Democratic leaders planned multiple votes in the House
on Thursday to ensure the measure would ultimately
pass because of disagreements among members on
elements of the bill. One vote was to be on war
funding, while another would be to approve the extra
money for domestic and military-related projects.
While liberal Democrats were expected to vote against
the war funds measure, GOP members were expected to
make up for the losses. On the added spending,
Democrats likely were to be unified in their support
for the measure, overcoming GOP objections.