Under the new plan approved by Democratic leaders, Congress would send Mr. Bush the money for the war and include a series of benchmarks that attracted 52 votes in the Senate last week. The Iraqi government could lose some foreign aid if it fails to show sufficient progress but the president would be given the authority to suspend any penalties.The final Iraq bill also was expected to insist that U.S. troops meet certain standards before being sent into battle, out of concern that some troops are going to Iraq without proper training. But Bush will have a waiver for this as well.
The agreement with the White House and Republicans would be tied to approval of as much as $20 billion in domestic spending sought by Democrats, as well as an increase in the minimum wage. Republican leaders said that would be hard for some lawmakers in their party to accept, but that they would probably allow it in exchange for the war spending.
The House will vote on the bill Thursday, but details are still being worked out on whether or not the domestic spending would be separated out so Democrats wouldn't have to vote for both. Given that many Democrats will not vote for the war funding, it will likely have to pass with a lot of Republican votes.
"Every time we negotiate, it becomes weaker," said Rep. Lynn Woolsey. "This is a Republican bill, so it better be Republican votes that pass it."
The final bill should reach Bush's desk by the end of the week or next week.
Despite the concessions, Democratic leaders claimed that this would be the first war bill that contained accountability for progress in Iraq. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid also emphasized Democrats would try again to end the war in the 2008 military spending bill to be debated probably in June.
But many in the caucus are rightly infuriated, including Sen. Russ Feingold:
“I cannot support a bill that contains nothing more than toothless benchmarks and that allows the president to continue what may be the greatest foreign policy blunder in our nation’s history,” he said. “There has been a lot of tough talk from members of Congress about wanting to end this war, but it looks like the desire for political comfort won out over real action. Congress should have stood strong, acknowledged the will of the American people, and insisted on a bill requiring a real change of course in Iraq.”I agree. While I think it's been obvious the timelines would have to be removed in the end, I don't understand why Bush is given the power to waive the restrictions they did place. Could Democratic negotiators not even attain that? This is one crappy compromise. We knew this was a long-term strategy, but this better be the last toothless war bill the Congress passes.