"Our troops are out by no later than August of 2008" under the legislation, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters. That deadline is just three months before presidential elections.
In the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid unveiled a proposal to begin withdrawing soldiers from Iraq within four months and it sets a goal of pulling all combat troops out by March 31, 2008.
You'll note that this is in contrast to the earlier House plan to box President Bush into a corner with troop readiness requirements, and the noticeable lack of a single plan in the Senate (though a Senate Democratic "war council" has been created to provide some unity.) Both plans are aimed at eventual troops withdrawals, but go about it in two different ways:
The House spending bill could lead to troop withdrawals before the end of the year and would end combat duties by Aug. 31, 2008. To help win votes in both parties, Democratic leaders have included billions of dollars in new spending for military health care and would redirect some money to the fight in Afghanistan.
In the Senate, Democratic leaders proposed a joint resolution, intended for consideration in the House as well, that would limit the authority Congress gave President Bush in 2002 to invade Iraq. It would require that troops start returning home within four months of passage and sets March 31, 2008, as a goal for withdrawing most troops. But it would require Republican votes to overcome parliamentary obstacles from GOP leaders.
The spending bill is the best bet, because Congress' authority on spending is unquestioned (even by the likes of John Yoo, as has been pointed out already.) A Senate effort to re-work the 2002 AUMF will probably fail for now, but that doesn't matter. It begins the long process of pulling Republicans away from the President on this issue, and I predict with about 100% confidence that they will eventually have enough Republicans on their side to either revise the AUMF or pass the budget restrictions.
The irony of this is that it appears that recalcitrant Democrats have been forced to go along with more forceful plans than they desired. Their earlier plans, crafted cleverly to avoid Republicans smears, for the most part fell utterly flat. Certainly part of the reason for that was that those plans were far behind what the majority of American people want, which is talk about withdrawal, not "troop readiness."
UPDATE: I think this article in the LA Times offers the best explanation of this development. I quote it at length:
The new Democratic proposals for Iraq may eventually be weakened or killed, but in one stroke they have transformed a many-sided debate about the conflict into a sharp-edged argument about the endgame.
Now, the Democratic mainstream has made its decision and offered the public a choice: Follow the president's plan to use U.S. combat troops indefinitely, or shift American soldiers to a secondary role and begin withdrawing them.
...the Democratic leadership, after weeks of a shifting intramural argument, has decided that the best indicator of America's mood came in the November election.
Ever more Americans indicate they are eager to get out now. A USA Today-Gallup poll released this week showed that 60% favor setting a deadline for U.S. troops to leave by the end of next year.
The Democratic proposals reverse roles they and the president have had for months. Bush has been able to argue that he offered a specific plan while congressional critics offered only vague criticism.
Now the Democrats have staked out a specific position while the administration peers into the uncertain future with an open-ended commitment. That puts Bush under new pressure to tell the public which way he will go next.
The House Democrats would give the president two opportunities to stave off — but not prevent — a pullback of U.S. troops. But even to delay it, Bush would have to certify that the Iraqis are moving toward key "benchmarks," such as training their forces and striking needed political deals to build a new government.
Indeed, laying out a clear plan, on a clear mandate-eventual withdrawal-will shift the tone of the debate dramatically. In this sense the Democrats have drawn a line in the sand and bet that the American people are behind them and not indefinite war. In truth the American people have been behind the Democrats since November, but it has taken Democrats some time to realize it.