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Conservative House Dems delay vote on Iraq funding bill

Problems arise with money attached to target date of Dec. 15, 2008 for redeployment of troops.

Opposition from moderate and conservative Democrats torpedoed a plan for a House vote Friday on a $50 billion bridge fund to pay for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan for about four months. Sources in the Blue Dog Coalition said some of its members balked at linking the money to a nonbinding condition that U.S. troops be withdrawn from the war zone in Iraq by the end of 2008.

Several Blue Dogs expressed concerns about having the vote prior to Veterans Day. Although not all Blue Dogs shared the concerns and the coalition sources said the measure would have passed, the coalition decided to back the members who had concerns and asked for a delay. The measure is likely to come to the floor next week.

A spokesman for Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said some members had requested more time to review the measure, and pointed out that language had not been circulated.

"We need to work it a little bit," said House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John Murtha, D-Pa., one of the authors of the bridge fund bill. He said there were still concerns from both wings of the Caucus about the bill's impact.

"There's going to be a bridge fund one way or another at some point. It's just a question of restrictions or no restrictions," Murtha said. "I don't think a bill would get through the House without any restrictions."

The measure's Dec. 15, 2008, target date of the redeployment of troops is a problem for die-hard Iraq war opponents in the House. It also faces a steep hurdle in clearing the Senate, where the measure would be open to amendment and would need 60 votes to overcome a filibuster.

Pelosi met with leading anti-war House Democrats Thursday afternoon and made what one attendee described as a "fairly compelling case" for the bill that generated a positive response from the progressive lawmakers. But aides to members who attended said lawmakers were disappointed that Pelosi failed to offer actual language. Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif., a co-founder of the Out of Iraq Caucus, said liberal support for the measure is not assured.

Lawmakers must determine whether language in the bill amounts to a real effort to withdraw troops, even if it is non-binding.

"The situation has to be that [troop withdrawal] is the intent," Woolsey said.