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Bush backs down on Iraq

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first_imgTwo Republicans joined in that effort, which failed by a 255-171 vote. Still, the plan attracted more support than anticipated. Speaker Nancy Pelosi was among those voting in favor. Fifty-nine Democrats, including Rep. Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the majority leader, opposed the proposal, along with 196 Republicans. “We finally got to vote for what we believed in,” said Rep. James McGovern, D-Mass., a sponsor of the withdrawal plan. Report on progress The bill the House approved would provide $42.8 billion total, with about $30 billion of that directed to the war effort for the next two months. It requires the president to report by July13 on how the Iraqi government is performing in building its military and moving toward achieving political unity in the battered country. Congress would then vote a second time on whether to give the administration the remainder of the money – $52.8 billion – to maintain operations in Iraq through Sept. 30 or to restrict that money to deployment. “No more,” said Hoyer, who backed the plan. “No more blank checks.” Republicans derided the Democratic approach as war on the installment plan, and they and Bush said the two-stage funding was unworkable. Congressional leaders say the new proposal will never reach the president’s desk because the Senate, where negotiations with the administration are proceeding, is likely to take a different approach. Bush, who on Tuesday received a blunt assessment from Republican moderates about rising voter unrest over Iraq, acknowledged the public’s impatience with the war. But he said he cannot allow political considerations such as “the latest opinion poll, or how we can get our members elected” to drive his thinking. “My message to the members of Congress is, whatever your beliefs may be, let’s make sure our troops get funded, and let’s make sure politicians don’t tell our commanders how to conduct operations,” the president said. Though Republicans voted solidly with the president, many made clear the administration had until September – the deadline for a progress report from Gen. David H. Petraeus, the commander in Iraq – to prove its war strategy was working. While it was Republican moderates who took their complaints directly to the president this week, others in the party expressed similar misgivings on Thursday. “There is a significant undercurrent that is looking for a reasonable way forward in Iraq,” said Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., a conservative. Troubled by policy Several Republicans are considering bipartisan legislation aimed at changing the war’s course. Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine and Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee have introduced separate proposals aimed at bringing a gradual end to the war. “We are troubled by the current policy,” Snowe said Thursday. “The White House needs to hear it.” While the White House has not opposed setting general goals for progress in Iraq, it has resisted any attempt to tie war funding or troop withdrawal plans to the benchmarks. On Thursday, Democrats welcomed the president’s new willingness to authorize negotiations on benchmarks but said any failure by Iraq to meet specified goals must result in penalties or they would be meaningless. “There is a recognition that things are not going well,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said about the president’s new position. “The only person who doesn’t believe there needs to be a change is the president.” The Senate hopes to consider its version of the war spending measure sometime next week. Lawmakers and senior administration officials say the most likely course is that the Senate would approve a new measure dropping the withdrawal date Bush objected to in vetoing the initial legislation, but retaining other restrictions, while providing the president the ability to waive them.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! WASHINGTON – As the House approved a plan on Thursday to finance the Iraq war only through midsummer, President George W. Bush offered his first public concession to try to resolve the impasse on war spending, acknowledging rising pressure from his own party and the public. After a briefing at the Pentagon, Bush said he had instructed Joshua Bolten, the White House chief of staff, to reach “common ground” with lawmakers of both parties over setting firm goals, or benchmarks, to measure progress in Iraq. Bush had previously insisted he wanted about $95billion for the military with no strings attached. “It makes sense to have benchmarks as a part of our discussion on how to go forward,” Bush said, even as he threatened to veto the House plan, approved on a 221-205 vote Thursday night, to require him to seek approval in two months for the balance of the war money. Before that vote Thursday, House Democrats demonstrated their opposition to continuing the war when 169 of them voted for a separate plan that would have required the withdrawal of U.S. troops to begin in 90 days, with most forces out within another six months. last_img read more