The Senate voted 51-46 Thursday afternoon to approve the HR 1591 conference report, the controversial defense supplemental spending bill that President Bush has repeatedly vowed to veto because of its inclusion of a schedule for withdrawal and non-war-related spending.
The $124 billion funding bill for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan includes $25 billion for farmers, Hurricane Katrina victims, and veterans’ programs, and a timetable that would require the "redeployment" of troops beginning October 1 and to be completed by April 1, 2008, or sooner if the Iraqi government does not meet certain benchmarks of progress.
The House approved the bill last night, and Congress is expected to deliver the bill to the White House on Tuesday--the fourth anniversary of President Bush's "Mission Accomplished" speech.
In the passionate debate prior to the vote Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) argued that established benchmarks with the looming possibility of losing of US support is "the only realistic way to encourage the Iraqis to take responsibility for their future."
But Senator Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut disagreed in his comments, calling the bill “a deadline for defeat," saying it would have “exactly the opposite effect that its supporters expect” because it would discourage the Iraqis.
Senator James M. Inhofe, (R-OK), said it was time to “look beyond the politics of this thing, and do the right thing” by letting Gen. David H. Petraeus a chance to finish the job.
But Kennedy, echoing the comments of many Democratic senators, had argued that the majority of the American people oppose the current involvement in the war, believing that the U.S. military "should not police Iraq's civil war indefinitely."
White House spokesperson Dana Perrino said earlier today that Bush would veto the bill "quickly," so Congress could get on with producing a revised version.
In the House of Representatives late Wednesday, the 218-208 party line vote fell short of the 290 that would be required to overcome a Bush veto. Two Republicans voted for the bill--Reps. Wayne Gilchrest (MD) and Walter Jones (NC)--thirteen Democrats--seven conservatives and six liberals--voted against it.
"Tonight, the House of Representatives voted for failure in Iraq," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said in a statement after the vote.
She further called the bill "disappointing legislation that insists on a surrender date, handcuffs our generals and contains billions of dollars in spending unrelated to the war."
Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA), the ranking member on the Appropriations Committee, accused Pelosi and the Democrats of working “to undermine a successful outcome in Iraq” by establishing a withdrawal date for U.S. forces, while Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) called it “a vote of no confidence in our troops.”
But perhaps the most poignant appeal in the House debate prior to the vote came from an Iraq veteran, freshman Congressman Patrick J. Murphy (D-PA), who lost nine fellow paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne this week in one of the deadliest attacks of the war
"How many more suicide bombs must kill American soldiers before this president offers a timeline for our troops to come home?" he asked.
"How many more military leaders must declare the war will not be won militarily before this president demands that the Iraqis stand up and fight for their country? How many more terrorists will President Bush's foreign policy breed before he focuses a new strategy, a real strategy? This bill says enough is enough."