Democrat trio leads way for withdrawal bill

WASHINGTON – Three leading House anti-war Democrats said they now back a $50 billion bill that funds the war but calls for most troops to come home by December 2008. Their support paves the way for the bill’s passage yesterday.

The trio, California Reps. Lynn Woolsey, Barbara Lee and Maxine Waters, represent a liberal anti-war caucus that last week expressed opposition to the measure on the grounds it was too soft and did not demand an end to combat.

The bill requires that President Bush initiate troop withdrawals within 30 days of its passage with the goal of bringing home most soldiers and Marines by Dec. 15, 2008.

The White House said Bush would veto the bill if it comes to him. Presidential spokeswoman Dana Perino called the legislation the “height of irresponsibility,” charging Democrats with merely trying to “appease radical groups” such as and Code Pink.

“Once again, the Democratic leadership is starting this debate with a flawed strategy, including a withdrawal date for Iraq, despite the gains our military has made over the past year, despite having dozens of similar votes in the past that have failed, and despite their pledge to support the troops,” she said. “Democrats believe that these votes will somehow punish the president, but it actually punishes the troops.”

A provision added to the bill, to satisfy liberal caucus members, states that the primary purpose of the $50 billion included in the bill “should be to transition the mission” and redeploy troops in Iraq, “not to extend or prolong the war.”

The measure is largely a symbolic jab at Bush, who has already begun withdrawing some troops but fiercely rejects the notion of setting a timetable for the war.

“While this bill is not perfect, it is the strongest Iraq bill to date,” the Democratic trio wrote in a joint statement.