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Democrats Pass Rule on War Bill; Republican Votes Will Carry Measure to Passage

Despite anger within Democratic ranks over what some are calling “capitulation” to President Bush on the Iraq War, most voted for the rule governing debate that will allow the $120 billion supplemental funding bill to pass the House tonight and the Senate shortly thereafter.

Leading Democrats, including House Appropriations Chairman David Obey (Wis.), said they would vote against the legislation providing funding for the war because it contains no timelines for withdrawal or meaningful troop-readiness standards.

“I hate this agreement and I am going to vote against the major part of this agreement,” Obey said. But he nonetheless defended the negotiations as a recognition that Democrats do not have the votes to override a veto and that the Senate could not get 60 votes to pass a more restrictive funding package.

“We simply did not have the votes to force the president to change policy,” Obey said, blaming Republicans. The amendment including the war funding is expected to pass tonight largely on the strength of Republican votes and will be combined with a second amendment, providing billions in domestic spending and a minimum-wage hike, before being sent to the Senate.

Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) ripped the deal on the floor, although he noted the rule would require votes in September on withdrawal legislation and legislation deauthorizing the war before the fiscal 2008 supplemental spending bill can be passed.

“I will vote against this blank check of a supplemental,” McGovern said. “The sad reality is that the Senate is too timid and the president too irrational. … Those of us who oppose this war will be back again and again and again and again until this war is ended.”

Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.), co-chairwoman of the Progressive Caucus, voted for the rule but called on Congress to be bolder in confronting the president.

“This capitulation proves once and for all that we cannot negotiate with this president,” she said. “He won’t listen to his military generals on the ground, he won’t listen to outside experts like the Iraq Study Group, he won’t listen to the Congress, and worst of all he won’t listen to the American public. … If we continue to take piecemeal steps such as today’s vote, then we must accept our complicity in his continued occupation of Iraq.”

Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee on Defense, told reporters he would vote for the bill and expected it to pass, albeit with significant Republican support.

“I don’t know if a majority [of Democrats] will [vote for it], but there will be plenty of votes to pass it,” he said.

Murtha acknowledged Democrats had to relent on key provisions, but that Congress had to act before the break or risk starving troops of the funds.

“They run out of money, we can’t have that,” Murtha said, adding that he was encouraged by the inclusion of benchmarks for the Iraqi government to meet, and he said he expected more Republicans to begin joining Democrats in opposition to the White House as September approaches.

“That’s what’s going to happen, I can see it already,” he said. “If you look at it long-term you see a direction, a movement that is moving our way. There’s no question about that. The public has made up their mind, they are impatient to get it over with but it doesn’t happen like that. As long as we can’t override a veto it doesn’t happen like that. I think by September you’ll see a different scenario.”

Murtha credited Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) with helping steer the bill to passage, despite the fact that she intends to oppose the legislation.

“She’s been masterful in the way she’s handled this, she knows what has to be done,” he said.

The package, which was only unveiled this morning after last-minute negotiations with the White House continued into the night Wednesday contains $109 billion for security accounts and $11 billion for domestic spending, including $6.2 billion for Hurricane Katrina relief and $3 billion for agriculture disaster assistance. Smaller amounts would go to children’s health insurance, rural schools, wildland firefighting and other accounts. The plan is $17 billion more than Bush sought, but that is a price he is willing to pay to get a bill devoid of timelines for withdrawal.

Republicans grumbled that the language was not released in time to comply with a rule requiring 24 hours notice, but Obey blamed the delay on the White House for “squawking” about various items late Wednesday night.

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