House Narrowly Passes Iraq Supplemental

Posted March 23, 2007 at 1:28pm

The House approved the $124 billion Iraq War spending bill Friday morning by a narrow margin after weeks of heavy lobbying by Democratic leaders.

The measure passed, 218-212, largely along party lines, with expected defections on both sides of the aisle. Fourteen Democrats voted against the bill, while two Republicans voted for it.

“We begin the end of the war,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Friday in a post-vote press conference in which she credited the victory in large part to freshman Democrats, who voted unanimously in support of the measure.

At a press conference Friday afternoon, President Bush tried to dampen the Democratic celebration by reiterating his intention to veto the supplemental if the bill that reaches his desk resembles the one passed by the House.

“Because the vote in the House was so close, it is clear that my veto would be sustained,” Bush said.

House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) said the final vote reflected the count predicted by Democrats, who had expected 217 of their members to back the bill, as well as at least two Republican lawmakers.

The South Carolina lawmaker declined to identify any one lawmaker or internal faction as the key to the victory, however, stated: “There’s no one thing. That’s what makes my job so interesting.”

When the supplemental hit the 218-vote marker on the board, Democrats erupted into cheers, applause and back-slapping on the House floor.

The Speaker hugged Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) several times, while Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.) and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.) slapped-hands and embraced on the floor.

Dozens of rank-and-file Members surrounded Clyburn on the House floor to offer congratulations over his successful first major whip effort in the new Democratic majority.

Democrats gained needed support Thursday, reaching an agreement with the Out of Iraq Caucus to allow its members to support the bill, despite the opposition of the group’s leadership.

“We’re not trying to undermine the caucus,” Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) said Thursday, explaining that the Out of Iraq Caucus agreed to free its Members to support the measure. “We have released people who were being pained by all of this.”

The liberal faction of the caucus had opposed the spending bill, which dictates the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq no later than 2008, instead calling for an immediate withdrawal that would be compete by the end of the year.

According to a Democratic source who spoke on the condition of anonymity, leaders of the Progressive Caucus, which claims many of the same members as the Out of Iraq Caucus, met with Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other leaders Thursday morning.

Following that meeting, the Progressive Caucus lawmakers agreed to deliver 10 votes, more than twice the four votes Pelosi had requested.

During a Democratic Caucus meeting Friday morning before the vote, Waters, along with Reps. Lynn Woolsey (Calif.) and Barbara Lee (Calif.) received a standing ovation, according to those in attendance.

“They really appreciate what we did yesterday,” Woolsey said, but added that she would nonetheless oppose the bill herself. Lee and Waters also voted against the measure, as expected.

Democrats also praised other factions of their Caucus, which at times showed stark divisions over the Iraq War proposal in recent week, at the Friday morning meeting, giving standing ovations to leadership, as well as the fiscally conservative Blue Dogs and House Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.).

“I don’t want your applause, I want your goddamn votes,” Obey responded over the clapping, according to one observer.

In their efforts to persuade critical Democratic votes in recent days, House leaders pressed a message to Members that voting for the proposed plan, even with its perceived imperfections, would be preferable to a straight funding bill with “no strings attached” sought by President Bush and Republicans.

“More of the same, with no change was not a viable option,” Emanuel said following the vote.

But some Democrats, including Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), refused those entreaties. “I believe you cannot say you are for peace, and vote to keep this war going,” Kucinich said Friday on the House floor, during Republican-allotted time for debate, asserting Democrats would not allow him to do so.

Altogether 14 Democrats opposed the spending bill — those mentioned above as well as Reps. John Barrow (Ga.), Dan Boren (Okla.), John Lewis (Ga.), Gene Taylor (Miss.), Lincoln Davis (Tenn.), Jim Marshall (Ga.), Jim Matheson (Utah), Mike McNulty (N.Y.), Diane Watson (Calif.) and Mike Michaud (Maine). Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) voted present.

Republican lawmakers also crossed party-lines, with Reps. Walter Jones Jr. (N.C.) and Wayne Gilchrest (Md.) supporting the measure.

Absent from the vote were Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D-Pa.), who is recovering by bypass surgery, and Rep. Jo Ann Davis (R-Va.). Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.) was in the District, Clyburn said, but arrived late and missed the vote.

In the meantime, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved its version of the supplemental spending bill Thursday, including a provision calling for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq with 120 days, and the measure is expected on the Senate floor Monday.

Susan Davis contributed to this report.