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Congressional Democrats Vow New Push for Iraq Withdrawal

Majority Democrats are vowing to go ahead with plans for a new legislative push to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq after Congress returns next month from a week-long break. VOA's Dan Robinson reports from Capitol Hill.

House and Senate Democratic leaders met with reporters as lawmakers began the July 4th Independence Day break.

The recess comes at the six-month point of the 110th Congress, during which Democrats have attempted to move key parts of their agenda forward. But while they were able to make Iraq their central focus, resistance by President Bush prevented Democrats from using war funding legislation to set a specific timetable to begin withdrawing U.S. forces.

Another round of the standoff will play out when lawmakers return in July, says House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

"We have many arrows in our quiver and we are sharpening them, including taking a bill to the floor in July to authorize the redeployment of troops out of Iraq, except for the purposes I mentioned, with a definite deadline of April 1, 2008," she said.

Pelosi hopes that by then President Bush will have, as she puts it, heard public demand to begin moving U.S. forces out. Democrats would withdraw all forces except for those needed for diplomatic and remaining force protection.

Calling the war in Iraq the key issue dragging down the confidence of Americans, Senate Democratic majority leader Harry Reid says the Senate will pursue similar efforts, starting with votes on the defense authorization bill in July.

Democrats are trying to highlight what they call key accomplishments since winning control of Congress after last November's election, in which Republicans suffered many losses largely due to dissatisfaction over Iraq.

The Democrats say their accomplishments include more than 100 congressional hearings on Iraq, along with completion in the House of the Democrat's six-part agenda.

But Republicans accuse Democrats of broken promises on everything from congressional ethics reform to energy policy, and note that a number of Democratic priorities, including a bill to implement all recommendations of the September 11 Commission, have not made it to the president's desk.

"Republicans want to work with Democrats to deal with the issues that the American people sent us here to deal with," said House Minority Leader John Boehner. "Unfortunately, the Democrats have decided to go their own way [and] their broken promises have led to little in the way of accomplishments."

Senate lawmakers leave behind them the collapse of bipartisan efforts to reform the U.S. immigration system.

Senate majority leader Harry Reid asserts Republicans are obstructing progress by using the 60-vote majority requirement in the Senate necessary to end debate on bills and move them toward passage.

"The story on immigration reform is all too apparent," he said. "Twelve votes, the Republicans supplied. Each one of these things that I have talked about has an impact on people in Nevada, New York, California, South Carolina, Maryland. These are issues that are important to Americans, and the fact is that Republicans aren't allowing us to proceed on them."

Reid has warned senators that he may keep them in session in August, when lawmakers are scheduled to begin the long summer break, to complete work on ethics and September 11 legislation.

House Democrats are still working on provisions of the Iraq legislation they will offer in July. They are seeking to establish an April 1 target for withdrawing most combat forces, and urging a stronger diplomatic push by President with Iraq's neighboring countries.