Washington (CBS) - House Democrats passed a $100 billion bill funding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan on Friday (3/23) that sets a final deadline for withdrawing troops from Iraq by the fall of 2008, setting up a major battle with the White House.
The bill would begin the redeployment of U.S. troops from Iraq as soon as July 2007 unless the President can certify to Congress that the Iraqi government is meeting key benchmarks in the President's new strategy. The bill passed by a vote of 218 to 212.
The vote was a significant victory for Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who called it a giant step toward ending the war in Iraq.
The bill now must clear the Senate, and it isn't clear how it will fare.
A recent attempt at passing legislation in the Senate that would have set a goal of pulling troops from Iraq by March 2008 fell short of the votes needed. President Bush has repeatedly rejected setting any timetable for withdrawing troops from Iraq and has vowed to veto any legislation that would do so. A White House spokesman on Friday predicted that if such a bill were to reach the president's desk, he believed Republicans held enough votes in Congress to uphold his veto.
Pelosi did not indicate what compromises she would be prepared to make in a potential conference with the Senate but said she would fight for the bill her chamber passed. "Congress has acted upon the concerns of the American people. We will take their concerns to the table in the conference," she said.
Under the legislation, Mr. Bush would have to certify to Congress by July 2007 that progress is being made in Iraq or it would trigger a 180 day redeployment of troops out of a combat role in Iraq. If Mr. Bush does certify progress had been made, he would have until October 1 to prove additional progress or a 180 redeployment would begin. The bill also contains funding to improve conditions for veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and money for farmers and to rebuild the Gulf Coast.