Democrats challenge Bush’s war spending bill

By Anne Flaherty The Associated Press

WASHINGTON – President Bush yesterday challenged Congress to pass his war spending bill without conditions. Democratic leaders, believing they have a mandate from voters, were searching for votes to adopt a withdrawal plan.

“Congress needs to get their business done quickly, get the monies we’ve requested funded and let our folks on the ground do the job,” Bush said after meeting with leaders of joint civilian-military units headed soon to Iraq.

Democrats are divided on the issue and hold only a narrow majority in Congress. Their leaders, hands tied if just a few members stray, are finding it tough to pass legislation that would require Bush to start bringing troops home.

House debate on an anti-war measure began yesterday with a vote scheduled today, while the Senate Appropriations Committee began considering a similar measure.

Facing likely defeat, Republicans on the Senate panel decided to postpone an effort to kill the withdrawal language until the full Senate takes up the spending measure as early as Monday.

The stakes are high for Congress’ new Democratic leadership, which wants to prove it can govern, influence Bush’s war policy and still support the military. The Bush administration continued to criticize Democrats for adding billions for domestic programs to the measure in an effort to win votes.

“Money is going to run out for our forces in Iraq sometime next month,” said White House spokesman Tony Snow. “The money is running out, and meanwhile you have people on Capitol Hill trying to buy or cajole votes for a bill that’s not going to pass.”

The House’s $124 billion spending bill would fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and require that combat troops leave Iraq by fall of 2008, and possibly sooner if the Iraqi government does not make progress on its political and security commitments.

But several hurdles remained.