WASHINGTON – Senate Democrats ignored a veto threat and pushed through a bill Thursday requiring President Bush to start withdrawing troops from “the civil war in Iraq,” dealing a rare, sharp rebuke to a wartime commander in chief.
In a mostly party-line, 51-47 vote, the Senate signed off on a bill that would approve $123 billion to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It also would order Bush to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq within 120 days of passage while setting a nonbinding goal of ending combat operations by March 31, 2008.
The vote marked the Senate’s boldest challenge yet to the administration’s handling of a war, now in its fifth year, that has cost the lives of more than 3,200 American troops and more than $350 billion.
“We have fulfilled our constitutional responsibilities,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told reporters shortly after the vote.
If Bush “doesn’t sign the bill, it’s his responsibility,” Reid added.
In a show of support for the president, most Republicans opposed the measure, unwilling to back a troop withdrawal schedule despite the conflict’s widespread unpopularity.
“Surely this will embolden the enemy, and it will not help our troops in any way,” said Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala.
The House, also run by Democrats, narrowly passed similar legislation last week. Party leaders seem determined that the final bill negotiated between the two chambers will demand some sort of timetable for winding down the war – setting them on course for a veto showdown with the president.