“Congressional Democrats relented today on their insistence that a war spending measure sought by President Bush also set a date for withdrawing troops from Iraq. The decision to back down, described by senior lawmakers and aides, was a wrenching reversal for some Democrats, who saw their election triumph as a call to force an end to the war.”
“We don’t have a veto-proof Congress,” said Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader.
Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the House Democratic majority leader, said the new bill was still being assembled, but he acknowledged the political reality facing Democrats. “The president has made it very clear that he is not going to sign timelines,” said Mr. Hoyer. “We can’t pass timelines over his veto.”
UPDATE: The AP notes, “Reid and other Democrats pointed to a provision that would set standards for the Iraqi government in developing a more democratic society. U.S. reconstruction aid would be conditioned on progress toward meeting the goals, but Bush would have authority to order the money to be spent regardless of how the government in Baghdad performed.”
UPDATE II: Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) releases a statement: “I cannot support a bill that contains nothing more than toothless benchmarks and that allows the President to continue what may be the greatest foreign policy blunder in our nation’s history. There has been a lot of tough talk from members of Congress about wanting to end this war, but it looks like the desire for political comfort won out over real action.”
UPDATE III: Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) will reportedly oppose the funding bill:
It will split the Democratic caucus in half, with as many as 120 Democrats voting no. Among the nays, I’m told, will be House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who will have negotiated a bill that she thinks is the best option for House Democrats but which she personally can’t support. Most other Democratic leaders are expected to vote in favor. Still, if only 100 Democrats vote yes, the amendment will require at least 118 Republicans in order to pass.
“Some will say no, some will say yes,” the official involved in the negotiations said of rank and file Democrats. “It’s not a perfect bill. Nobody got what they wanted. But it is the beginning of the end of George W. Bush’s policy in Iraq.”
Also, the House leadership is promising “to return to the timelines — and other measures designed to pressure Bush to withdraw from Iraq — in the Defense appropriations bill for the next fiscal year. ‘We’ll be able to write a lot of policy in appropriations that Bush won’t be able to veto,’ says the official.”