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US House of Representatives Calls for Iraq Withdrawal Plan


The U.S. House of Representatives has approved a resolution to require President Bush to give Congress a plan to withdraw troops from Iraq. VOA's Dan Robinson reports, the measure which had bipartisan support was the first of what Democrats say will be a series of bills this month relating to Iraq.

Approved by a vote of 377 to 46, it is the latest effort by Democrats to place Congress on record regarding President Bush's military strategy in Iraq, while not trying to tie the president's hand.

The product of lengthy negotiations, the measure requires the president, in coordination with his secretaries of State and Defense as well as the military Joint Chiefs of Staff to develop what it calls a comprehensive strategy to redeploy U.S. forces from Iraq.

After having President Bush veto a bill earlier this year that tried to link war funding to a timetable for withdrawal, House Democrats introduced a measure that would mark a renewal of pressure on the president, while striking a bipartisan tone.

With the legislation, says House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton, Congress simply states that it wants to see planning from here on in that it has not seen from the Bush administration in the past:

"It requires that the planning the Pentagon is doing for redeployment from Iraq be shared with Congress, as it should," said Ike Skelton.

Neil Abercrombie is a Hawaii Democrat and one of the co-sponsors of the legislation:

"Republicans alone, Democrats alone, cannot bring this to an end," said Abercrombie. "It requires us all to work together."

In the final vote, only 16 Republicans voted against the measure. Thirty Democrats opposed it, including some of the most outspoken anti-war critics in the party.

Phil English, a Pennsylvania Republican, said it is time Americans heard Congress speak with one voice on legislation dealing with Iraq:

"The American people need to know that their representatives are trying to seek out the best policy to protect American interests overseas and reduce our footprint in that troubled country," said English. "The Iraqi government needs to know that the U.S. Congress is not prepared for our nation to carry the burden of defending Iraq's security indefinitely and that that must become an Iraqi undertaking."

Despite the bipartisan vote, Democrats and Republicans remain in conflict over how to proceed with legislation to fund military operations.

Democratic House appropriations chairman David Obey intends to stall the president's supplemental war funding request of nearly $190 billion, possibly until next February or March.

"I have absolutely no intention of reporting out of committee anytime this session, any such request that simply serves to continue the status quo," said David Obey.

Obey says he remains open to negotiations with the White House on language that could move the supplemental request forward.

Democrats appear to be focusing on an effort to provide short-term funding to sustain military operations as part of regular budget measure for the Pentagon.

Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell voiced concern about troop funding in a meeting with reporters Tuesday, saying the Senate will not postpone action on the matter until next year.