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Iraq Transition

Democratic bill would have troops out of Iraq by fall 2008

Story Highlights

• Bush would veto Iraq withdrawal timeline, spokesman says
• Democratic plan would set benchmarks for Iraq progress toward stability
• Iraq troop pullout deadline would be triggered if conditions not met
• Progressive and Out of Iraq caucuses want "clear timeline" set for withdrawal
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Democrats in the House and Senate pushed legislation Thursday that would have U.S. combat troops out of Iraq by August 2008, or sooner if certain benchmarks of progress aren't met, but the White House said the president would veto any such proposal.

The troop withdrawal timetables in the House are embedded in appropriations legislation that provides money for care of wounded troops, for better equipment and training, and for expanded operations in Afghanistan.

The plan will "refocus our military efforts on Afghanistan and fighting the war on terrorism where it began," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, said at a Capitol Hill news conference. (Watch Strategy Session debate the value of the proposal Video)

Democratic leaders in the Senate discussed a plan of their own, which would bring troops home by March 2008 and execute "a comprehensive diplomatic, political and economic strategy" to settle the 4-year-old conflict.

A spokesman for President Bush said any such plan would be "an artificial, precipitous withdrawal from Iraq based on, unfortunately, politics in Washington, not on conditions on the ground in Baghdad, Iraq."

"Obviously, the administration would vehemently oppose and ultimately veto any legislation that looked like what was described today," said Dan Bartlett, White House counsel.

Bartlett said the plan appeared aimed more at papering over Democratic divisions on Iraq than resolving the war itself.

"It would unnecessarily handcuff our generals on the ground, and it's safe to say it's a non-starter for the president," he said.

House discusses proposal

Just before Pelosi's briefing, members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and Out of Iraq Caucus held a news conference to explain their legislation, which would require Congress fully to fund withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of this year. (Full story)

Pelosi said there was "common ground" between the groups and she expected legislation to be crafted to satisfy all parties.

But Rep. Maxine Waters, D-California, who spoke for the Progressive and Out of Iraq caucuses, was critical of the leadership's proposal.

"This plan would require us to believe whatever the president would tell us about progress that was being made," Waters said.

"This is the same president that led us into a war with false information, no weapons of mass destruction, said we would be [welcomed] with open arms, said that the mission had been accomplished. Now we expect him to give us a progress report in their plan by July?" Waters asked.

As for getting Republican support -- required to override a veto from President Bush should the plan make it that far -- Pelosi said she hoped GOP lawmakers would stand behind a measure that provided the means to equip and maintain U.S. troops properly.

House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, criticized the Democratic leadership proposal.

"Unfortunately, the Democrats' latest plan is an old twist on an old adage: Failure at any cost," Boehner said. "Democrats are using the critical troop funding bill to micromanage the war on terror -- undermining our generals on the ground and slowly choking off resources for our troops. By establishing and telegraphing to our enemy arbitrary timelines for withdrawal, Democrats are mandating failure."

The bill provides that the Bush administration and the Iraqi government meet a series of benchmarks showing progress in bringing stability to Iraq, among them the training of Iraqi forces and the sharing of the country's oil revenue.

If Congress finds those conditions have not been met, a 180-day withdrawal of U.S. troops would begin, possibly as early as July. Pelosi said the barometer of progress would be "a subjective call."

"No matter what, by March 2008, the redeployment begins," she said.

Democratic Rep. David Obey said they hoped to have the legislation on the House floor in two weeks.

Senate Democrats want tighter deadline

In the Senate, Republicans blocked non-binding resolutions opposing Bush's troop buildup on procedural votes last month.

Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, proposed a binding resolution Thursday that would call for a withdrawal of most U.S. troops by March 2008.

Under the plan, the remaining U.S. troops would focus on training Iraqi troops and fighting terrorists. The administration would work on a plan to stabilize Iraq and improve its relationship with its neighbors and the international community.

Reid said he would push the Senate to begin debate on the plan Monday.

Reid said changing the course in Iraq requires Republican cooperation.

"So far, Republicans have chosen to green-light the escalation," he said.

"Hopefully, Senate Republicans will join the American people in opposing the president's flawed policies in Iraq. They must put doing the right thing above protecting the president."

There was little evidence there would be enough support for the measure to give it the 60 votes it would need to pass in the face of a possible filibuster, much less the 67 votes needed to override a veto. (Watch Sen. Hillary Clinton allege a leadership vacuum Video)

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, immediately criticized the plan, saying it would tie the hands of U.S. commanders.

Though seven Republicans broke ranks to vote on the last non-binding proposal, it wasn't clear how many GOP senators might join Democrats on Reid's new plan.

Assessing troop numbers

Meanwhile in Iraq, the top American commander was saying he will wait before all new U.S. combat troops and military police arrive before making an assessment on what a sustainable number of troops is.

Gen. David Petraeus also said military force alone was not the answer to the problems in Iraq. (Watch a military official's assessment of Baghdad operations Video)

"There is no military solution to a problem like that in Iraq, to the insurgency of Iraq," Petraeus told a news conference, adding that political negotiations were crucial to forging any lasting peace.

Petraeus said talks should include "some of those who have felt the new Iraq did not have a place for them." He said a key challenge facing Iraq's government was to identify "reconcilable" militant groups and bring them inside the political process.


• Interactive: Who's who in Iraq
• Interactive: Sectarian divide


Proposal unveiled by House Democratic leaders Thursday:

  • Adds $1.2 billion to President Bush's request for military operations in Afghanistan.

  • Includes $1.4 billion for military housing.

  • Includes $3.1 billion for base realignment and closure.

  • Has $2.5 billion to pay for homeland security needs in ports and airports.

  • Includes $1 billion for pandemic flu preparedness.

  • Includes $2.9 billion for Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts.

  • Has $500 million to pay for efforts to combat wildfires

  • Includes $400 million for home energy aid.

  • Has $4.3 billion to help farmers recover from agriculture disasters.

  • Includes $735 million for a health care program for low-income children.

    Source: House Appropriations Committee
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