Thursday, March 29, 2007

Senate approves Iraq bill; real showdown about to begin

On a 51-47 vote (Sen. Pryor joined this time), the Senate approved the supplemental funding bill for the Iraq war that orders President Bush to begin withdrawing troops within 120 days of passage with a goal of ending combat operations by March 31, 2008. The vote came shortly after Bush invited all House Republicans to the White House to appear with him in support of his veto proposition.

The House and Senate will now break for Easter recess. Senate and House negotiators will draw up a compromise version of the legislation over the break and vote on it sometime on or after April 16th when they return. The White House has said troop funds are needed by April 15th, but in reality the Pentagon has the authority to transfer funds through July. Also, a cutoff in funding would mostly just affect replacement brigades, and most of them are not scheduled to be deployed until next fall. Thus, the "time is running out" rhetoric is hyperbolic.

Furthermore, Democrats could use would be to pass temporary spending extensions, known as continuing resolutions, for 30 days or so at a time. This would enable them to undercut Bush's argument that the troops will suffer, while keeping up the pressure on him to compromise.

Meanwhile, Reid and Pelosi have sent Bush a letter asking him to work with them but saying Congress will not issue another blank check for the war. The only thing for certain is that this battle is just beginning, and that it will continue on for the next few weeks and months.

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