House Democratic leaders were still tinkering with a $100 billion-plus Iraq War spending bill Tuesday, but largely have settled on a measure that puts several conditions on the president’s use of the money while seeking to draw support from wavering Democrats and Republicans by allowing votes on multiple amendments and including money for veterans’ care.
Rep. Mike Capuano (D-Mass.), a member of the Progressive Caucus opposed to further funding the war, said Democratic leaders presented “nuanced changes” to Democrats at their regular full Caucus meeting, but that “no firm language” has been shown to the Members yet.
Indeed, one House Democratic leadership aide said that while broad principles in the measure are largely settled, “This bill is like being pregnant — you either are or aren’t. It is either done or not. And it’s not yet done.”
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) met with leaders of the Out of Iraq Caucus on Tuesday to discuss the possibility of letting them have a vote on an amendment to fund only the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, but not further combat missions.
Hoyer did not propose a quid pro quo that would have progressives voting for the final bill once their amendment fails, as is likely, said Democratic Reps. Maxine Waters (Calif.) and Lynn Woolsey (Calif.), who attended the meeting.
Instead, Woolsey said Hoyer simply asked, “‘How many Members do you think could vote [for] the amendment and then for the supplemental?’ and we said there would be some. ... There are many that are going to vote ‘yes’ and ‘no.’”
Indeed, Capuano said he and other progressives might be more inclined to vote for the war funding bill if they were first allowed to vote for the withdrawal amendment.
“It certainly would make my life easier,” he said.
But Woolsey and Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said they would not vote for the war supplemental no matter what amendments were allowed.
“It’s the president’s responsibility to pass his [war] budget. Let him make the concessions that will get him the votes,” said a defiant Nadler.
Not all Democrats want to have a vote on the progressives’ amendment, however. Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) indicated that voting on the amendment would present a problem for himself and others in the Caucus.
“I would hope we would not” have a vote on the amendment, Moran said.
Capuano said some Democrats have complained that a vote on the amendment would send mixed messages and expose the fractures between those who support continuing to fund the war with conditions and those who want to pull out now.
“It’s a legitimate concern that you don’t want to chop up the Caucus too much,” Capuano said.
Still, Moran predicted that by today or Thursday Democrats would have “one bill with one clear message” that will demand accountability from the Bush administration on how it is conducting the war.
He said the principles laid out in Rep. John Murtha’s (D-Pa.) plan to require the president to certify that troops have the equipment and training they need before deployment would be included, along with the ability for the president to waive such requirements and language intended to make sure that the Iraqi government meets the benchmarks for taking over that Bush laid out in January.
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