U.S. Senate passes bill to bring troops home


WASHINGTON, Reuters

The U.S. Senate on Thursday defied President George W. Bush by passing a war funding bill setting a goal of withdrawing all American combat soldiers from Iraq within a year.

By a vote of 51-47, the Senate approved the bill Bush has vowed to veto. It would require the president to begin a troop withdrawal within four months and try to complete it by March 31, 2008. The initiative was attached to a US$121.7 billion bill that mostly funds wars in Iraq and Afghanistan this year.

The House of Representatives passed legislation last week setting a mandatory troop withdrawal deadline of Sept. 1, 2008. The two chambers will try to work out a compromise before sending the bill to Bush next month.

The House and Senate hope to negotiate a compromise bill by the week of April 16 and pass that compromise by the following week.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who opposes setting deadlines for U.S. combat troops in Iraq, urged negotiators to work quickly so that Congress can “get it on down to the president for the inevitable veto.”

If Bush does veto the bill, Democrats are not expected to have the two-thirds support in the House and Senate to overturn him.

As a result, Congress quickly would have to come up with a new war-spending bill, with Democrats in a high-stakes gamble over whether to send Bush another bill with conditions on the duration of U.S. troops fighting in Iraq.