Funding Bill for Iraq War Falls Short in Senate Vote

By Shailagh Murray
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 17, 2007

Senate Republicans yesterday blocked Democrats' latest effort to end the Iraq war, rejecting a $50 billion military funding package that would have required President Bush to begin withdrawing U.S. troops.

The 53 to 45 vote in favor of the bill fell seven short of the 60 votes needed and signaled that the contours of the war debate, now nearing its first anniversary, have barely changed. An alternative GOP proposal, which would have provided $70 billion with no strings attached, was rejected outright, 53 to 45.

The Democratic version was approved by the House earlier this week. It would have required President Bush to start a phased redeployment of U.S. forces within 30 days of enactment, while shifting the military role in Iraq to specific missions. Those include protecting U.S. diplomatic facilities, assisting Iraqi security forces and engaging in targeted counterterrorism operations. It set a goal of Dec. 15, 2008, for completing the process.

Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.) said he may bring the Democratic bill back to the floor in December. He and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) have decided that Bush will not receive more war funding this year unless he accepts Democratic withdrawal terms.

That is out of the question, said White House spokesman Tony Fratto, who dismissed the Democratic vote as a political stunt.

"Once again, they tried to pass a bill that provides incremental funding, tries to micromanage the war from the halls of Congress," Fratto said. Democrats "know that such a bill will be vetoed, should it ever come to the president's desk," he said. "They know this because we've been through this dozens of times now."

In May, Bush vetoed a war spending bill for Iraq that contained Democratic withdrawal conditions, and Congress backed off. Reid and Pelosi said they will not consider a new approach to the funding request until January. In the meantime, they said, the Pentagon could draw from its $471 billion annual budget to cover war expenses.

Fratto said the funding crunch could hurt military efforts, including the training of Iraqi forces, which is crucial to eventually ending the U.S. military role in the country.

But Reid refused to yield. "Our troops continue to fight and die -- and our Treasury continues to be depleted -- for a peace that we seem far more interested in achieving than Iraq's own political leaders," he said. "Our bill sets a reasonable goal for the end of combat operations."

Republicans said they expect to win the funding showdown eventually -- just as they did this summer, owing to the Democrats' tiny 51 to 49 majority in the Senate.

"The Democrat leaders are going to have to finally swallow their political pride here, I guess, and provide funding for the troops," said Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.).

Although GOP lawmakers concede that the public has turned against the Iraq conflict, they have proved unwilling to use their legislative powers to tie Bush's hands.

The Democratic terms that did not win enough support yesterday are less stringent than the ones in previous measures. For example, the current bill would have set a goal, instead of a deadline, for withdrawal. But, with a veto threat looming, the bill did not attract any new Republican supporters.

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