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Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Withdrawal timetable dropped from war spending bill

Watch House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tell CNN's John Roberts the new Iraq spending bill will hold the president "accountable."

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Congressional Democrats plan to send to President Bush a war-spending bill without a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq, two Democratic leadership aides tell CNN.

Earlier this month, Bush vetoed a war spending bill passed by the Democratically-controlled Congress that included a timetable for withdrawal. The president has insisted that he will not sign any bill that includes such a provision.

The bill is expected to include benchmarks that the Iraqi government would have to achieve. The bill is also expected to require the president to provide numerous reports to Congress before August 2007 on the Iraqi government's progress, the aides said.

If the Iraqi government fails to meet the benchmarks, the aides said, reconstruction funds could be cut. The bill may also allow the president to waive the penalties for failing to meet the benchmarks if he feels they are necessary.

White House spokesman Tony Snow Tuesday declined to comment directly on the proposals in the new bill.

"One of the reasons why I think the talks have been able to proceed is that we are not floating trial balloons, nor are we responding to trial balloons," Snow said. "I think when both sides have worked out what they think is an acceptable agreement, I will let them do it."

A senior administration official added "it is premature to say that the White House has agreed to any provisions of the Iraq funding bill."

The war spending bill, also known as the supplemental appropriations bill, would also include a boost in the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour and other domestic spending initiatives, the amount of which are still being negotiated, the aides said.

The House is expected to vote on the bill late this week. A House Democratic leadership aide acknowledged that there would be resistance from some liberal members of the party but expressed confidence that there will be "enough support" from House Republicans to pass the bill.

Democratic leadership aides have privately told CNN for some time that Congress would eventually have to drop the withdrawal timeline in order to get a bill the president would sign by Memorial Day. And, in order to pass the bill, the Democratic leadership would have to withstand significant defections from within its own party and rely on Republican support to pass the bill, the sources said.

Democratic sources say they may push for a withdrawal timetable when the annual Defense Appropriations and the Defense Authorization bills, the two main legislative vehicles that fund the Defense Department, are debated this summer.

CNN reported Friday that Democratic leaders' demand for a timeline with a waiver was intended to show the significant anti-war portion of the party that they were trying until the last possible minutes to stand up to the White House.

-- CNN's Dana Bash, Andrea Koppel and Deirdre Walsh
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