Bush signs war bill with no timeline
Published: Saturday, May 26, 2007 at 3:46 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, May 25, 2007 at 9:00 p.m.
WASHINGTON -- President Bush on Friday signed an emergency spending bill for the Iraq war as anti-war activists assailed congressional Democrats for dropping their demands that the legislation include timetables for withdrawing U.S. troops.
The president's action ended his first big fight with the new Congress over the 4-year-old war, but Democratic leaders vowed to continue to force an end to the war.
"We are going to come back in other pieces of legislation . . . and keep coming back," said Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus.
With most Republicans continuing to support Bush on the war, Democrats do not have enough votes to impose deadlines. And, while they oppose the war, many Democrats are leery of doing anything that might be construed as not supporting the troops -- such as holding back funding.
The Democrats' most immediate opportunity to renew the struggle might be a defense authorization bill scheduled to come before the Senate at the end of June. Some Democratic strategists are considering attaching withdrawal timelines to that measure.
And in September, Army Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Iraq, is due to report on whether a U.S. troop buildup is working.
Members of both parties will be more focused then on their 2008 re-election campaigns -- and the administration will need more money for the war.
"September is the moment of truth for this war," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco.
Calif. Pelosi voted against the almost-$120 billion spending measure but acceded to its passage as a tactical necessity. "I would have hoped for more," she said, "but it does represent a change in direction."
Even Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky acknowledged the mounting pressure for change. "I think that the handwriting is on the wall that we are going in a different direction in the fall, and I expect the president to lead it," he said at a Capitol news conference.
Nonetheless, anti-war activists were mad that 86 Democrats in the House and 37 in the Senate voted for the bill and vowed to hold the lawmakers accountable. Some even talked about recruiting primary challengers.
"Voters elected them in November to end the war. That's the promise they made, and we expect them to deliver on it," said Eli Pariser of MoveOn.org.
Bush signed the legislation without the fanfare that accompanied his veto earlier in May of a bill that included the timelines.
"Rather than mandate arbitrary timetables for troop withdrawals or micromanage our military commanders, this legislation enables our servicemen and women to follow the judgment of commanders on the ground," Bush said in a statement.
The measure he accepted Friday funds military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq through Sept. 30. It would require the Iraqi government to show progress in securing the country or risk losing U.S. reconstruction aid, though Bush can waive that provision.
The bill also contained an unrelated provision that represents one of the Democratic majority's top legislative priorities: the first increase in the federal minimum wage in a decade. The minimum pay level will rise from $5.15 per hour to $7.25 per hour over two years.
Also included are $4.8 billion in tax cuts demanded by Republicans to ease the effect of the wage increase on small businesses.
Anti-war activists predicted that lawmakers, especially Democrats who voted for the measure, would encounter "a lot of unhappy constituents" during their week-long recess for the Memorial Day holiday.
MoveOn.org was already focusing its attention on Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, who voted for the bill after deriding it as "weak tea." The liberal group urged its Nevada constituents to send Reid a bag of "weak tea" and tell him "we expect stronger leadership from him, not weakness."
Reid said Friday, "We will not stop our efforts to change the course of this war until either enough Republicans join with us to reject President Bush's failed policy or we get a new president."
Of the 226 Democrats voting in the House, 140 voted against it, while 194 of 196 Republicans voting gave their support. Democrats who voted for the measure said they lacked the votes to override Bush's veto and didn't want to leave town without providing money to the troops.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who voted for the spending measure, said in a statement: "Democrats have voted over and over again to change course in Iraq. But the simple fact is that Democrats have just 49 votes on our side. We simply do not have the 67 votes at this point to overcome the President's veto. "The problem here is that we have troops in harm's way who must have the necessary equipment and support."
Karen Jacob, national chair of Women's Action for New Directions, was among about a dozen antiwar activists from Democratic Rep. Joe Donnelly's Indiana district who showed up at an event the congressman was holding at a grocery store. She said the group "just very politely expressed our dismay at his voting for this legislation."
"In 2006, we helped elect these people, and our main mandate was to end the war," she said. "We want to let the representatives know we're very unhappy, and if they continue on this direction, we will work to replace them."
All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.
Comments are currently unavailable on this article