Supplemental budget with Iraq War timeline passes House by razor-thin margin
The Democratic leadership in the House of Representatives succeeded in passing a controversial supplemental war budget that includes a timeline to remove troops from Iraq by August 2008. Fourteen Democrats voted against the funding bill, and two Republicans voted in favor of it.
By a 218-212 vote, a bare-bones majority, House Democrats succeeded in passing their supplemental appropriations bill, titled the U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans' Health, and Iraq Accountability Act, which funds the war in Iraq.
"My grandmother told me, ‘you’re put on this Earth to make a difference.’ We made a difference today," said Rep. John Murtha (D-PA), the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman who championed the bill.
He added, "This bill sets benchmarks and requires accountability from the Iraqi government. It forces the Iraqis to fight their own war and to take over their own country."
The bill garnered enormous controversy among House Democrats, with Congressional Progressives charging that it funded a war that must end now.
"This is a vote of conscience, and I simply cannot vote to give this President another $200 billion to continue his occupation of Iraq. The funding in this bill will continue our bloody occupation well into 2008, while more of our brave young men and women, and innocent Iraqi civilians are caught in the crossfire of an escalating civil war.," said Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), the co-chair of the Progressive Caucus and Out of Iraq Caucus, in a statement sent to RAW STORY.
Woolsey, with a group of fellow Progressives, voted against the measure.
Rather than voting 'Yea' or 'Nay,' one House Democrat, Rep. Pete Stark of California, voted 'Present.' Stark is a member of the Progressive Caucus.
"Despite my utmost respect for my colleagues who crafted this bill, I can’t in good conscience vote to continue this war. Nor, however, can I vote ‘No’ and join those who think today’s legislation goes too far toward withdrawal," Stark said in a statement sent to RAW STORY. "My vote should be interpreted as opposing the war’s continuation while permitting this Congress -- under Speaker Pelosi’s leadership -- to deliver a strong message to President Bush that his blank check to wage war has been canceled."
A pair of Democrats did not vote for or against the bill. Rep. Paul Kanjorski, a Pennsylvania Democrat, is currently recovering from triple bypass surgery in Boston. Rep. Mel Watt (D-NC), had not replied to RAW STORY inquiries at press time, although Watt is a member of the Progressive Caucus.
Two Republicans voted with the Democrats, helping the Democratic leadership secure the majority needed for passage. Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC), the congressman made famous by his push to refer to french fries as 'freedom fries' in Congressional cafetarias, was one of the pair. With Maryland Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, the other Republican to vote 'Yea,' he voted with the Democrats in February on a non-binding measure opposing the President's troop escalation.
A group of Iraq War veterans saluted the House for passing the bill.
"The House of Representatives deserves a lot of credit for rejecting the President's failed stay the course policy, and demanding change today," said Jon Soltz of the group VoteVets.org. "The bill that passed represented a good-faith compromise that opposes doing more of the same."
But the group also recognized a possible roadblock to implementation of the timeline to bring an end to America's military involvement in Iraq.
"The Senate now has to follow suit, and fulfill the demands of the American people, Generals, the Iraq Study Group, and the troops," Soltz added.
In a statement issued to RAW STORY last month, a spokesman for Rep. Roy Blunt, the House Minority Whip, said that the Senate would be far more important in determining how the Iraq War debate would proceed.
"Moving forward, most of the action will be on the Senate side of the building, so I'd refer you over there for their strategy," said Burson Snyder to RAW STORY on Feb. 21.
White House Press Secretary Tony Snow also repeated President George W. Bush's threat to veto the bill as written yesterday.
"The one they're considering has zero chance of being enacted into law; it's bad legislation; the President is going to veto it, and Congress will sustain that veto," he said in yesterday's press briefing.