Liberal Democratic lawmakers will push House leaders to return the Iraq War to center stage as early as next week.
Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.), who co-chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said late Tuesday she is preparing to reintroduce legislation calling for a troop withdrawal from Iraq and will urge leadership to move the measure in the wake of the economic stimulus package that has been the center of attention for several weeks.
The California lawmaker described the measure as “daughter of 508,” referring to H.R. 508, a bill backed by liberal Democrats in the first half of the 110th Congress.
In addition to curtailing new funding for the Iraq mission, the measure would require U.S. troops to withdraw from Iraq by the end of this year. Unlike the previous version, however, the new bill would implement a quarterly schedule, returning 25 percent of current troops by deadlines in March, June, September and December.
The measure would allow the military to participate in an “international stabilization force” for up to two years, at the request of the Iraqi government.
Democratic leaders, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), have often made comparisons between Iraq War spending and current economic woes.
“We have a list of what you can do for one day in Iraq and what you could do for one week in Iraq and what you could do for one month. But the fact is that we have serious challenges in our own country, the opportunity for which are lost because of the president’s myopic view of what is being accomplished in Iraq,” Pelosi said Tuesday.
But it remains to be seen whether Democratic leaders are willing to shift the focus from troubles at home in coming weeks.
“There has not been discussion yet about bringing particular legislation forward on Iraq,” said one senior Democratic aide, who asked not to be identified. “There will need to be further discussion between leaders and Members on the best way to move forward.”
But a Democratic leadership aide did not immediately dismiss the possibility that the liberal Democrats’ measure would move into the spotlight, asserting that an Iraq fight in the House would not necessarily shift focus from the economy.
“I don’t think it throws it [the agenda] off track,” the aide said, and later added: “Nothing’s been absolutely decided yet.”
House and Senate lawmakers had not been expected to turn their attention back to Iraq until at least March — the fifth anniversary of the war is March 19 — and possibly into the summer months, when another supplemental spending request is expected from the White House.
But Democratic leaders could move before that time to address a “status of forces agreement,” essentially a long-term accord, being negotiated with Iraq by the Bush administration, which Members have criticized as a backdoor treaty.
“We have to watch him carefully, the president carefully, because he wants this war to go on and on and on for a very long time to come,” Pelosi asserted Tuesday, and later added: “We have stay very alert and vigilant as to what the administration is doing in this regard.
“We want to make sure that the president understands that if this is a treaty, it cannot be entered into unless Congress agrees. And I’m sure that when that happens, Congress will have a great deal to say about that treaty,” she said.