Senate votes to pull troops from Iraq by 08

WASHINGTON — In a sharp rebuff to President George W. Bush, both the House and Senate have approved versions of a supplemental spending bill calling for withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraq next year.

The Senate approved a bill that would remove most troops by March 2008. The vote was 50-48 with Republican Sens. Chuck Hagel (Neb.) and Gordon Smith (Ore.) joining all but one Democrat, Mark Pryor (Ark.), in voting for the bill. Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson (Neb.) dropped his earlier opposition to a deadline and voted for the bill. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) voted against the measure.

Days earlier, the House voted 218-212 to set August 2008 as the deadline for a pullout. The two bills are part of a $124 billion supplemental spending bill for Iraq and Afghanistan. Seven leading foes of the Iraq war in the House, including Reps. Lynn Woolsey, Barbara Lee and Maxine Waters, all California Democrats, voted against the measure on grounds that it provides billions to continue the war.

A poll by the Pew Research Center released March 26 showed that 59 percent of the public favored the legislation as a crucial first step to end the war.

Tim Carpenter, executive director of Progressive Democrats of America, told the World the votes are “a good thing,” adding, “for the first time, something approaching a deadline has been imposed on Iraq” by both the House and Senate. “Dozens of PDAers witnessed the House vote on Friday from inside the halls of Congress,” Carpenter said. “We met with principled allies in Congress, some who voted yes on the supplemental and some who voted no. They are united now. And PDA strengthened its own ranks by organizing all weekend at its national leadership conference.”

Once a House-Senate conference irons out differences between the two versions, it will be sent to Bush. “We’ll have to see whether he vetoes it or not,” Carpenter said. If he does, the bill comes back to Congress for an override vote. Furthermore, there will be additional votes on appropriations for the Iraq war. “We will continue this fight as long as it takes to bring the troops home,” he said.

Paul Kawika Martin, political director of Peace Action, told the World, “If you look back a year ago, there was no step in the right direction. We’ve come a long way. This is a first step.” Many conservative Democrats had vowed not to vote for “date certain” legislation but in the end they did, he noted.

Jim Cason, a spokesperson for the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL), told the World FCNL’s executive director had gone to Nebraska to help mobilize grassroots pressure on Sens. Hagel and Nelson “to vote against any new funding for the Iraq war.” But, the Quakers’ nonpartisan message said, “If you are not willing to vote against the supplemental then at the very least please make that war funding contingent on a change in U.S. policy on Iraq … a date by which all U.S. troops will withdraw.” Both Hagel and Nelson supported the “date certain” pullout from Iraq.

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