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House Iraq Bill Set for Passage

House Democrats are inching near unanimity on legislation scheduled for floor action today to begin the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.

Members as ideologically diverse as anti-war liberal Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) and Southern conservative Rep. Lincoln Davis (D-Tenn.) both said Wednesday they were inclined to support the legislation, which Democratic leaders are confident will pass.

“I’m probably a ‘yes,’” Woolsey, co-chairwoman of the Out of Iraq Caucus, told reporters following a Democratic Caucus meeting to discuss the bill, sponsored by Armed Services Chairman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.). The measure would upon passage begin troop redeployment within 120 days and require a complete withdrawal by April 1, 2008.

“It could be very close to” unanimous, Woolsey said.

“I’m leaning a ‘yes’ on this one,” Davis added, although he raised concerns that Democrats could appear to be politicizing the matter by forcing a vote before the administration’s scheduled July 15 interim report on Iraq was available. Davis said he would rather have the vote next week, but that appeared unlikely.

The legislation already has received a veto threat from the White House and similar previous efforts have failed, but Davis said the move is substantive regardless. “I think the merit comes in letting the American public know that we’re listening to them,” Davis said.

Not all Democrats are ready to call for withdrawal. Rep. John Barrow (D-Ga.), who has voted against similar efforts, said he was not likely to change his vote this time around. “I think the timelines have to be the president’s,” he said.

House Republican leaders are confident that GOP support for the bill will be minimal and unlikely to reach beyond the 17 lawmakers who voted with Democrats on an Iraq resolution earlier this year. Republicans will be allowed to offer an alternative on the floor, but they had not decided on a proposal as of press time.

While House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) provided a cringe-worthy moment at the weekly Conference meeting Wednesday by referring to Senate Republicans who recently have come out against the war as “wimps,” Republicans remain largely unified as well against the withdrawal plan.

According to lawmakers present, Rep. Heather Wilson (R-N.M.) chastised the Leader for his word choice; her home-state colleague, Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), was the latest to denounce the war. “It was inartful, to say the least,” observed one lawmaker present who asked not to be named.

Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) criticized Democrats for not allowing amendments to be offered. Shays said he will vote against the bill, but could have been more malleable had he been allowed to offer an amendment to extend the April 1, 2008, withdrawal deadline to the end of 2008. “It’s just too soon,” Shays said, though he is not opposed to beginning redeployment. “I just think they need more time.”

Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) said that at least two Republicans — Reps. Walter Jones Jr. (N.C.) and Wayne Gilchrest (Md.) — were expected to vote with Democrats. “There are a number of other Republicans giving consideration to it,” he said.

Republican moderates criticized the Democrats for not working with them and for holding a vote before formally receiving a July 15 update on the progress — or lack thereof — in Iraq.

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