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Iraq pullout legislation will be vetoed, Bush says

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  • NEW: Amendment placing restrictions on troop deployments fails test vote
  • Democrats plan to include withdrawal timetable in appropriations bill
  • Pullout timetable would infringe commander-in-chief duties, White House says
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush will veto a defense appropriations bill being debated in the Senate if it includes an amendment setting a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq, the White House said Tuesday.

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President Bush said Tuesday military commanders, not politicians, will lead a "new way" forward in Iraq.

Senate Democratic leaders have said they plan to bring forward an amendment from Sens. Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island, and Carl Levin, D-Michigan, that calls for beginning a redeployment of U.S. troops in as little as four months, to be completed by next spring. House Democratic leaders announced late Tuesday that they would bring a similar proposal to a vote by the end of the week.

But in a policy statement issued Tuesday by the Office of Management and Budget, the White House said the proposed Reed-Levin amendment infringed on Bush's authority as commander-in-chief and was "equivalent to setting a date for failure."

Webb amendment vote

Senators on Wednesday refused to bring to a vote an amendment written by Sen. Jim Webb, D-Virginia, that would set time limits between U.S. troop rotations in Iraq and Afghanistan, to give troops more time at home.

The tally was 56 to 41, failing to receive the 60 votes required to cut off debate on the amendment so a vote could be held.

Republicans voting for cloture:
• Sen. Norm Coleman, Minnesota
• Sen. Susan Collins, Maine
• Sen. Chuck Hagel, Nebraska
• Sen. Gordon Smith, Oregon
• Sen. Olympia Snowe, Maine
• Sen. John Sununu, New Hampshire
• Sen. John Warner, Virginia

Indepdents voting against cloture:
• Sen. Joseph Lieberman, Connecticut

Senators not voting:
• Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kansas
• Sen. Tim Johnson, D-South Dakota
• Sen. David Vitter, R-Louisiana

"If the president were presented a bill that includes such provisions, he would veto the bill," the statement said.

Senate Democrats are trying to attach the withdrawal timetable to the bill that funds the Defense Department for fiscal year 2008.

To overcome procedural hurdles in the Senate, the Reed-Levin amendment would likely need backing from at least 10 Republicans, and -- despite recent cracks in GOP solidarity on the Iraq war -- it is unclear whether the proposal would draw enough GOP votes.

An aide to GOP Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine said Wednesday she would co-sponsor the Reed-Levin amendment. Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Oregon, also backs the amendment, but other Republicans would need to join in to get it through the Senate.

Earlier this year, congressional Democrats tried a similar tactic, attaching a timetable proposal to an emergency war funding bill. Bush vetoed the bill, and Democratic leaders eventually backed down and removed the language in May to move the measure forward.

Senators on Wednesday refused to bring to a vote a Democrat-sponsored amendment that would set time limits between U.S. troop rotations in Iraq and Afghanistan, to give troops more time at home.

The tally was 56 to 41, failing to receive the 60 votes required to cut off debate on the amendment so a vote could be held.

Under the proposal by Jim Webb, D-Virginia, military personnel who return from deployments would have remained stateside for at least as long as they spent overseas, before they could be sent back.

Bush said Tuesday that military commanders, not politicians, should determine the course of the war in Iraq.

"Congress ought to wait for Gen. Petraeus to come back and give us his assessment before they make any decisions," Bush told a town hall meeting in Cleveland, Ohio.

In a brief statement earlier there, Bush said, "Troop levels will be decided by our commanders on the ground, not by political figures in Washington D.C."

Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, has had the full number of troops requested under the so-called "surge" for only a few weeks, Bush said, and Congress should give Petraeus and his forces time to show results.

Petraeus is due to report to Congress in September about progress in Iraq.

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An interim report coming this week will emphasize signs of hope in Iraq, including a drop in sectarian killings in Baghdad, the decision by tribal chiefs in Anbar province to move against al Qaeda terrorists and successful local elections, sources said Tuesday.

But it will also note the Iraqi government's failure to pass major political changes, including sharing oil revenues, power-sharing among the country's various ethnic and religious groups and letting supporters of deposed dictator Saddam Hussein's Baath Party return to Iraq's political life, the sources said. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

All About U.S. Department of DefenseDavid Petraeus

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