House nears approval of withdrawal plan

Liberal holdouts conclude that the speaker's plan is better than no plan.

Published March 23, 2007 12:55PM (EDT)

With liberals who wanted a stronger bill dropping their opposition, Nancy Pelosi now appears to have the votes to get a withdrawal plan for Iraq through the House of Representatives today. Pelosi's measure would call on George W. Bush to begin removing U.S. troops from Iraq by next March -- with almost all of them home by the end of next August -- and would move up that timeline dramatically if the Iraqis aren't meeting benchmarks set in the bill.

House liberals had been holding out for something better, which is to say, a plan that would have almost all U.S. troops out of Iraq by the end of this year. Their view: If the president is going to veto any withdrawal plan anyway, why not make the contrasts as stark as you can by passing the strongest bill you can? "This is not going to go anywhere, so if you're going to be symbolic, be bold," California Rep. Lynn Woolsey said earlier this week.

But Pelosi made it clear to the holdouts Thursday that it was her bill or nothing -- that if she couldn't get majority support for the slower withdrawal proposal, she would have no choice but to re-introduce the "emergency" supplemental war spending bill to which it is attached without any withdrawal plan included. Given the choice between voting on war spending with Pelosi's withdrawal plan and voting on war spending with no withdrawal plan, liberals like California Rep. Barbara Lee decided it was time to get in line.

"I find myself in the excruciating position of being asked to choose between voting for funding for the war or establishing timelines to end it," the Washington Post quotes Lee as saying. "I have struggled with this decision, but I finally decided that, while I cannot betray my conscience, I cannot stand in the way of passing a measure that puts a concrete end date on this unnecessary war."

The House votes later today, but it's way too soon for families to start printing the "Welcome Home" banners or for the president to pull out the veto pen. There's virtually no chance that the House bill will make it through the Senate, where the Democratic majority isn't big enough to overcome the 60-vote barrier Republicans will continue to put up to stop any withdrawal plan. That said, Democrats on the Senate Appropriations Committee did pass their own version of a withdrawal plan Thursday. Their plan, attached to $122 billion in supplemental war funding, would require Bush to start bringing troops home within four months of its passage and would set March 31, 2008, as a non-binding deadline for the withdrawal of most U.S. combat troops.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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Iraq War Nancy Pelosi D-calif.