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Schneider: Dems try to have it both ways with Iraq vote

Story Highlights

• Democrats want to express disapproval of war, but afraid to cut funds
• House will have two votes on war funding bill to allow Democrats to vote "no"
• Anti-war groups still angry that Democrats will allow war funding bill to pass
By Bill Schneider
CNN Senior Political Analyst
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(CNN) -- Democrats are trying to have it both ways on the Iraq funding vote. It will be interesting to see if they can do that.

Iraq war opponents say it's a sellout to vote for a bill that continues funding for the war without a timeline for withdrawal.

"We basically see a cave-in by many members of Congress, Republicans and many Democrats, who know that the message from the American people was to get us out of Iraq," said Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wisconsin.

Anti-Iraq war groups like MoveOn.org are threatening retribution.

"We already have members writing us saying, 'Let's run ads against those people, let's find primary challengers for those people,'" MoveOn.org Executive Director Eli Pariser said. (Watch how liberal groups are pressuring Democrats to vote against the war funding bill Video)

But Democrats are also feeling pressure not to cut funding for the troops.

"The Democratic leadership is allowing this bill to pass because, unlike the president, they will not leave our troops unprotected in battle," said Rep. James Moran, D-Virginia.

How are Democrats defending themselves against the charge they're selling out? Democrats are adding sweeteners to the bill.

They're saying, according to John Dickerson, chief political correspondent of Slate.com, "We have some other things for you. We got an increase in the minimum wage, we got help for Katrina victims, some health care for children."

The House of Representatives voted on the two measures separately, so Democrats could vote for the new domestic spending and against the war funding bill, which can now be combined into a single bill after passing the House.

Democrats are saying they got President Bush to accept something he previously resisted -- benchmarks for the Iraqi government.

"These benchmarks provide both the Iraqi government and the American people with a clear road map on the way forward," Bush said at his Thursday news conference. (Watch Bush voice his support for the bill Video)

Democrats are saying this is just a first step.

"We will bring this war to a responsible end by every single solitary day, vote after vote, keeping the pressure on the president," said presidential candidate Sen. Joe Biden, D-Delaware.

And one more thing: The war funding bill is likely to pass without the support of most Democrats. All it needs is a solid majority of Republicans and a minority of Democrats. Even House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, says she will vote against it.

So the troops will get funded with no timelines for withdrawal. But most Democrats can say, "Don't blame me -- I voted against it."

Pretty clever. Maybe too clever. Because a Democratic Congress allowed it to happen.


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Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wisconsin, accused his fellow lawmakers of not following the American people's will to get out of Iraq.

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