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House Passes Second Iraq Funding Bill After Defeating Withdrawal Measure

The House approved its second version of the $95.5 billion Iraq War emergency spending bill Thursday, as the controversial measure passed in a mostly party-line vote.

The measure was authorized, 221-205, with two Republicans joining Democrats to support the legislation, while 10 Democrats opposed the bill.

The emergency spending bill is a two-tier measure that would provide funding to the military through the end of the summer but would require a House vote in July to release funds to the end of fiscal 2007.

“This legislation ends the blank check for the president’s war without end,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said on the House floor, later adding: “This is the kind of regular and responsible review of the war Congress should have been conducting since the mission began more than four years ago.”

Both Rep. Wayne Gilchrest (R-Md.), who crossed party lines in April to support the first emergency spending bill, and Rep. Walter Jones Jr. (R-N.C.) defied their party leadership to back the measure.

Among the Democrats who opposed the measure were Reps. Lynn Woolsey (Calif.), Maxine Waters (Calif.), Diane Watson (Calif.), Barbara Lee (Calif.), John Lewis (Ga.), Dennis Kucinich (Ohio), John Tanner (Tenn.), Mike McNulty (N.Y.), Mike Michaud (Maine) and Pete Stark (Calif.).

Democratic Rep. Gene Taylor (Miss.), who had opposed the initial spending proposal, supported the second version, which he dubbed “a fairly reasonable approach calling on the commander in chief to tell us what the game plan is.”

Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) noted that Democrats had a somewhat smoother route to passage on the newest spending plan, suggesting that Members felt they had “a little more latitude” than just weeks ago.

“It was easier than the 218 we got the first time,” he said, referring to the winning vote tally when the House passed the first spending bill in March.

Although Senate Democrats offered criticism of the measure, objecting in particular to the short-term funding proposal, Democratic leaders have defended the legislation as a vehicle to take to the eventual House-Senate conference.

“Why the exact language may not be what the Senate is talking about, when we go to conference there are certain principles” both chambers agree on, Pelosi said Thursday morning.

House Democrats have asserted that an agreement can be reached before Congress adjourns for the Memorial Day recess in late May.

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he was unsure what form the Senate version of the supplemental would take or when the Senate would vote.

“There are 150 scenarios of how we deal with this,” Reid said Thursday. “We do not know yet how we’re going to proceed on this.”

Even though Reid continues to refuse to rule out bringing the House bill to a vote in the Senate, it still appears that the Senate will bring up its own version that does not call for a bifurcated funding approach.

Reid emphasized that his conversations with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten were continuing and that he is reviewing the Republicans’ proposed Iraq language. But he said, “it is something I’m not going to discuss” because of promises he’s made to keep their deliberations private.

Reid added that he is looking at several bipartisan proposals being developed by a number of Senators.

“Each of them think they have a magic formula, and we’re going to look at all of them,” he said. “None of them are magic bullets at this stage though.”

Democratic leaders also greeted Bush’s announcement that he favors the inclusion of benchmarks for the Iraqi government with optimism.

“He’s starting to move, or at least, he’s starting to listen,” said Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.).

But Pelosi greeted Bush’s statement with skepticism, stating on the House floor: “What he fails to accept is accountability for failing to meet those benchmarks. Benchmarks without consequences are meaningless.”

The White House has vowed to veto the House measure in its current form, citing objections to restraints on funding and the inclusion of funds for non-military items, echoing President Bush’s veto of an earlier version of the spending bill last month.

House lawmakers earlier Thursday defeated legislation calling for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq on a 255-171 vote. Fifty-nine Democrats joined 196 Republicans in opposing the bill, while GOP Reps. John Duncan (Tenn.) and Ron Paul (Texas) crossed over to support the bill.

The measure, sought by liberal Democrats who have opposed spending additional funds to continue the war, had not been expected to pass but was moved to the floor by House leaders as a concession to those lawmakers for their support of the emergency spending bill.

“Some of us are not willing to spend another dime on this war,” said Waters, who chairs the Out of Iraq Caucus. The bill, authored by Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), would have required that U.S. military personnel complete a withdrawal no more than 270 days from the enactment of the law.

Among the 59 Democrats who opposed the measure was House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (Md.), who broke with his fellow leaders to vote against the bill.

Republicans largely opposed the measure, offering an unsuccessful amendment that would have gutted the bill by removing requirements for troops to withdraw within a specific time period.

The Iraqis “don’t want us to leave until we leave a better place,” Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) said on the House floor.

Emily Pierce contributed to this report.