Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Progress on Iraq Bills

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell announced today that Republicans will not stop the Senate from considering the Democrats' withdrawal plan in a procedural vote expected on Wednesday to begin debate on the resolution. This is in sharp contrast to their move to block debate on the non-binding resolution opposing the President's escalation plan. However, Republicans have said they will try and block a final vote on the withdrawal resolution.

The bill calls for the United States to begin withdrawing soldiers from Iraq within four months and sets a goal of pulling out all combat troops by March 31, 2008. Though Democrats have 51 members in their caucus, Sen. Tim Johnson is still recovering from the stroke he had a few months back and independent Sen. Joe Lieberman opposess the measure. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will need to convince some Republicans to join his 49 members in order to attain passage. 7 Republicans voted with Democrats to begin debate on the non-binding resolution a few weeks ago, so hopefully some would be willing to cross over on this binding one.

Meanwhile, in in the House of Representatives, the Appropriations Committee will hold a vote Thursday on a similar measure attached to a $124.1 billion spending bill that would provide funds to U.S. troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. The measure calls for the withdrawal of U.S. troops to begin later this year and to be completed by fall of 2008. That timeline moves up considerably if the Iraqis don't meet certain security benchmarks specified in the bill. The full House vote will be closer than Democratic leaders would like, as several Blue Dogs and liberals may vote against it for going too far or not far enough, respectively, but they are confident it will pass. While some are lambasting the removal of a provision forbidding President Bush from attacking Iran without Congressional authorization, this was a necessary move to ensure passage of the bill (and thus, the Iraq timeline). Senator Jim Webb has introduced the Iran bill in the Senate and this can be worked on seperately.

You can sign the official online petition to support the Iraq resolution in the Senate here.

UPDATE: Speaker Pelosi has promised a stand-alone vote for the Iran measure.

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