Democratic leadership wins first major test on Iraq funds
Republicans attack war spending bill -- which passed on a narrow margin -- as a recipe for defeat in Iraq littered with "pork-barrel" funding.
The House voted 218-212 Friday to approve a $124.3 billion emergency spending bill that takes the first steps to end what Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called a "grotesque war" in Iraq.
The result was a major victory for Pelosi's new and fractious majority -- aided by what Republicans lambasted as "sweeteners" to attract votes -- but it remains unclear whether the measure's strict timeline for U.S. troop withdrawal will survive conference. President Bush on Friday vowed to veto the bill because it "has too much pork, too many conditions and a timetable for withdrawal" from Iraq.
Another, more massive spending bill for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will be considered this fall, guaranteeing the debate will continue. But Democrats hailed approval of the supplemental Friday as the beginning of a new direction in the war and in Congress.
"Rather than sending more troops into the chaos that is the Iraqi civil war, we must be focused on bringing the war to an end," Pelosi said. "The American people do not support a war without end and neither should this Congress."
Approval also represented a victory for Appropriations Chairman David Obey, D-Wis., who was elected to Congress in 1969 during the height of the Vietnam War.
Obey at times during the past few weeks appeared uncomfortable with the horse-trading used in constructing the bill. But he said Friday Congress must no longer "rubber stamp" President Bush's policies.
"We can continue to do what he wants and only what he wants and only when he wants to do it and only in the way he wants to do it, or we can do what our Founding Fathers envisioned when they created the Congress," Obey said.
Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John Murtha, D-Pa., a decorated Marine colonel who served in Vietnam, has more than any other member been associated with the effort to end the war. His voice quaking with emotion, Murtha noted his great-grandfather lost his arm fighting for the North in the Civil War.
"My great-grandmother died when she was 96. I was six years old," he said. "She said you're on this earth to make a difference ... We're going to make a difference with this bill."
Republicans blasted the bill as a recipe for defeat in Iraq littered with "pork-barrel" funding such as money for Gulf Coast shrimpers, California spinach growers and Georgia peanut farmers.
"What does throwing money at Bubba Gump, Popeye the sailor man and Mr. Peanut have to do with fighting the war?" said Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Texas, a fighter pilot in Vietnam who spent seven years as a prisoner of war. Johnson said the image of Marines being airlifted out of the U.S. embassy in Saigon hovered over the debate.
"That's what happens when America makes a commitment, and Congress cuts the funding, and we go home with our tails between our legs. We can't let that happen again," Johnson said. "If we learned anything from the brave Marines who died trying to save innocent people at the embassy in Vietnam, it's that Marines never quit. John, you know this. Neither should we," he added, addressing Murtha.
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