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Iraq Transition

New bill would fund war in two stages

Story Highlights

• Congressional Democrats working on new $95.5 billion war funding bill
• Half of funds would be available immediately; vote required on remaining funds
• Bill does not contain deadlines for withdrawing troops from Iraq
• President Bush vetoed a bill containing a withdrawal timetable last week
From Dana Bash
CNN Washington Bureau
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- House Democratic leaders are preparing a new version of the Iraq war funding bill that would pay for the war in two stages.

The first stage would give the Bush administration about half of the $95.5 billion it seeks for U.S. troops and military operations. Congress would vote on authorizing the second half of the funds in July, but only after it reviews a report from President Bush on a series of benchmarks measuring the Iraqi government's progress.

The new draft bill, as reported in the Wall Street Journal, was floated by House leaders last week as a way to appeal to the various factions in the House Democratic caucus. A vote on the bill could be scheduled as early as the end of this week.

Leaders hope to move swiftly in order to mesh the House proposal with the Senate's bill before the Memorial Day holiday.

Although this proposal does not include dates for withdrawal, one leadership aide maintains it still demands accountability from Bush because "it doesn't just give him another $100 billion with no questions asked."

Bill meant to keep pressure on Bush

The aide said that by "fencing off" the second installment of war funding, Congress would get more detailed information about how the money would be spent and how much more is needed. The aide described the plan as "being responsive to concerns of members who really want us to keep the pressure on Bush, and at the same time we are making sure we are funding the troops and making members comfortable with that."

According to several Democratic aides, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, along with House Appropriations Chairman David Obey, D-Wisconsin, and Defense Subcommittee Chair John Murtha, D-Pennsylvania, are working on the details on this two-step funding plan with other House leaders.

These discussions are on a track separate from negotiations with White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten.

One Democratic aide said leaders are trying to get leaders from the progressive and conservative wings of the party on board "before running it through the traps." But this aide pointed to recent comments from House Republicans warning that support for Bush from his own party is waning, saying, "We think some of those guys are ready to jump ship" and support the bill.

On Sunday, House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said that Republicans would reassess support for the president's Iraq policy by the fall. Boehner noted on Fox News, "By the time we get to September or October, members are going to want to know how well this is working, and if it isn't, what's Plan B?" (Full Story)

CNN's Deirdre Walsh contributed to this report


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Last week, President Bush met with leaders of Congress, including Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi, to discuss his veto of the Iraq war spending bill.

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