Congressional delegation against Iraq war bill

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(Host) All 3 members of Vermont’s congressional delegation say they’ll vote against a new compromise plan to continue funding for the Iraqi war, because the bill doesn’t include a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) After weeks of negotiating with the White House over the future funding of the Iraq War, Democratic congressional leaders have decided to back down on one of their key demands – that’s the inclusion of a firm timetable for the withdrawal of American troops in the bill.

The compromise plan provides funding for another 4 months and it includes performance benchmarks for the Iraqi government to meet. A failure to meet these benchmarks could result in a loss of funds but the president has the authorization to waive these penalties.

Congressman Peter Welch says he strongly opposes the new compromise:

(Welch) “This is a failed policy that’s doing real damage to our country this is a long fight and I’m in it for the duration. We have got to bring these troops home. We’ve got to change our direction in Iraq. This is a big disappointment for many of us who are going to vote against this. We’re going to argue against it but we’re going to fight another day.”

(Kinzel) Welch says the Democrats are in a tough position because they don’t have the votes to override a presidential veto of legislation that sets a specific timetable for troops to leave Iraq.

(Welch) “The president’s letting us down. He’s the one with the veto pen. That’s the reality. And we have to get two thirds of Congress. That’s 290 votes to overcome a presidential veto. So that’s really where the problem is.”

(Kinzel) Senator Patrick Leahy says he’s concerned that the President isn’t listening to public opinion on this issue:

(Leahy) “The president is just not listening to anybody. He’s not listening to what the public said last fall. He’s not listening to so many retired generals who told him how badly this is going. And he’s obviously not listening to what is reported to him on a daily basis about the mayhem that’s going on every single day in Iraq.”

(Kinzel) Leahy says he hopes Democrats will make Iraq a major issue in the 2008 elections:

(Leahy) “I think we should keep on pressing. We should make it very clear it will be an issue in next fall’s congressional and presidential elections. And I’m hoping the American public will say they reject the policies that first got us in there and then policies that kept us in.”

(Kinzel) In a written statement, Senator Bernie Sanders says he’ll vote against the bill because it fails to provide a timetable to bring the war to a timely end.

For VPR News I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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