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Troop withdrawal added to war funding bill

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  • Democratic leaders add domestic spending and troop withdrawal to bill
  • Bill redirects more than $3 billion for international food aid
  • Bill requires U.S. to adhere to prisoner interrogation standards, no "waterboarding"
  • Legislation forces Iraqi government to shoulder more reconstruction costs
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From Deirdre Walsh
CNN
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Defying President Bush's demand to send him a clean war funding bill, House Democratic leaders unveiled legislation Tuesday that conditions the money on withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq and adds billions of dollars in domestic spending.

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Democrats unveiled legislation Tuesday tying war funding to a timeline for troop withrawal.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey, D-Wisconsin, outlined a $183.7 billion package that combines money for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for the remainder of 2008 with additional funding requested by the administration to continue military operations through early 2009.

Democrats insisted that their bill stays roughly within the overall spending limit set by the White House, but they included two major domestic items -- unemployment assistance and a new GI Bill that expands college benefits for veterans -- that would cost about $12 billion.

Obey argued that the add-ons are emergency spending and therefore shouldn't be included in the overall price tag.

The bill would redirect more than $3 billion of the president's request to pay for international food aid, levees in New Orleans and more resources for military child-care centers and hospitals.

Obey said that Democratic leaders turned down more than 100 requests for other domestic programs, such as summer jobs and infrastructure projects, and that they limited spending to things they deemed true emergencies.

"There is not a single piece of pork, not a single member project," he said.

The Democrats' plan would place a number of restrictions on the administration, Obey said. It would tie the war money to a requirement that the Pentagon begin withdrawing U.S. troops, with the goal of removing all combat forces by 2010, and it directs the Pentagon to give troops the same amount of rest time at home as they spend on combat assignments.

The bill would also require the United States to adhere to prisoner interrogation standards set out in the U.S. Army Field manual, which bans torture, including "waterboarding."

It would require all U.S. agreements with the government of Iraq to be submitted to Congress in the form of a treaty needing Senate ratification. The legislation would also force the Iraqi government to shoulder more of the costs for reconstruction projects. Half of the funds for these projects would be grants, the other half loans.

In order to move the bill quickly and avoid attempts to change it, Democratic leaders are bypassing the usual committee process. The plan is to hold three votes Thursday on the House floor: one on the war funding itself, one on the funding restrictions and one on the additional domestic spending. The entire package would then go to the Senate, but a senior Democratic leadership aide said it's unlikely the funding restrictions would pass.

By keeping the overall cost of the bill close to the president's limit, Democrats hope he will not veto it. The leadership aide argued that the GI bill and money for unemployment benefits should pass the Senate, increasing pressure on the White House to accept the entire bill.

Obey said Democrats want to avoid a veto, but he asked, "How can you be for squirreling away $200 billion on this misbegotten, godforsaken war and not be for providing a GI Bill expansion?"

House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, denounced the bill.

"It is unacceptable and, indeed, unimaginable for Congress to continue to hold our troops hostage for political leverage," he said. "If House Democrats want to ramp up spending on other government programs, those items should be considered separately. A troop funding bill should fund the troops. Period."

All About U.S. House Committee on AppropriationsU.S. SenateIraqU.S. House of Representatives

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