In a direct challenge to President Bush, House Democrats unveiled legislation Thursday requiring the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraq by the fall of next year.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the deadline would be added to legislation providing nearly $100 billion the Bush administration has requested for fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.
She told reporters the measure would mark the first time the new Democratic-controlled Congress has established a "date certain" for the end of U.S. combat in the four-year-old war that has claimed the lives of more than 3,100 U.S. troops.
Pelosi made her announcement as Senate Democrats reviewed a different approach - a measure that would set a goal of a troop withdrawal by March of 2008. Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada called a closed-door meeting of the rank-and-file to consider the measure.
In the House, Pelosi and the leadership have struggled in recent days to come up with an approach on the war that would satisfy liberals reluctant to vote for continued funding without driving away more moderate Democrats unwilling to be seen as tying the hands of military commanders.Yeah, notice it is always spring of 2008 being discussed. Ask yourself why? It is simple the Dems do not believe that the country will elect a democrat President if we are still at war. These people are political hacks, who do not care about the security of this country and they have a political investment in losing this war.
To make the overall measure more attractive politically, Democrats also intend to add $1.2 billion to Bush's request for military operations in Afghanistan, where the Taliban is expected to mount a spring offensive.I predict this will not pass and that will mean that they have de-funded the troops.
The bill also will exceed Bush's request for veterans' health care and medical programs for active duty troops at facilities such as the scandal-scarred Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington.
Democrats also are including funds for a health care program for low-income children. The program is popular among governors of both political parties, but the administration has not signaled its acquiescence to the additional money.
As described by Democrats, the legislation will require Bush to certify by July 1 and again by Oct. 1. whether the Iraqi government is making progress toward providing for the country's security, allocating its oil revenues and creating a fair system for amending its constitution.
They said if Bush certified the Iraqis were meeting these so-called benchmarks, U.S. combat troops would have to begin withdrawing by March 1, 2008, and complete the redeployment by Sept. 1.
Otherwise, the deadlines would move up.
If Bush cannot make the required certification by July 1, troops must begin a six-month withdrawal immediately. If Bush cannot make the second certification, the same six-month timetable would apply.
The legislation also requires the Pentagon to adhere to its existing standards for equipping and training U.S. troops sent overseas and for providing time at home between tours of combat.
Pelosi said the provision was designed to make sure the government would "not be sending our troops into battle without the proper training, the proper equipment."
Yet it also permits Bush to issue waivers of these standards. Democrats described the waiver provision as an attempt to embarrass the president into adhering to the standards. But they concede the overall effect would be to permit the administration to proceed with plans to deploy five additional combat brigades to the Baghdad area over the next few months.