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Final War Funding Bill in Works

The final version is also expected to include House language that would establish binding benchmarks -- such as the passage of an oil-revenue-sharing law and the quelling of sectarian violence -- for the Iraqi government to meet to ensure full U.S. military support into next year.

But on troop-withdrawal language, negotiators are likely to bend toward the Senate bill, which says troop withdrawals must begin within 120 days after bill passage but sets a date of March 31, 2008, only as a goal for final withdrawals. The idea, aides said, is to show Democrats as willing to compromise with Bush and to make a veto more difficult to defend.

That strategy would make it hard for House Democratic leaders to round up the 218 votes for passage, said Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.), a member of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee. About 40 antiwar Democrats reluctantly voted for the original House bill, even though they thought it was too weak.

"We had nothing to spare in the last vote," Moran said, "and a number of members have gone home who voted for it and who just heard from their base that they should have stuck with" the hard-line antiwar Democrats who voted against it.

Having gotten this far, Democratic leaders said yesterday that they are not about to let divisions in their party stop a bill from reaching the president. House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.) said the party is "on more than solid ground" for its push for binding benchmarks and troop-readiness standards, while "the American people have [Bush] on a mute button."

"We're going to get something through the House, through the Senate and to the president," he said. "Everyone knows failure is not an option here."

Polling analyst Jennifer Agiesta contributed to this report.


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