Welch defends Iraq vote

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(Host) Congressman Peter Welch is defending his vote to provide short term funding for the war in Iraq.

Welch says the measure insures that Congress will have to address the issue in several months, and he hopes it will give anti-war Democrats more time to build support among Republican members of Congress.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports

(Kinzel) Late Thursday the U.S. House took two important votes concerning the war in Iraq.

The first bill, which was co-sponsored by Congressman Peter Welch, called for the withdrawal of all U.S. troops in Iraq in the next nine months.

Although the legislation was defeated by a vote of 255 to 171, Welch says he was surprised that the plan received so much support.

The second vote provides funds for the war until the middle of July. It also establishes performance benchmarks for the Iraqi government to meet by that time.

If these benchmarks weren’t met, Congress would then consider legislation to end funding for the war. Welch also voted for this bill.

Welch says his two votes are designed to end the war as soon as possible.

(Welch) “One is to push as hard as possible to get an option to vote to de-fund the war. Congressman McGovern and I were successful in getting that before the Congress – the first time it’s happened since the war began. Secondly when we have to face an option that’s less than perfect we have to evaluate it in a pragmatic way that is intended to get our troops home as soon as possible.”

(Kinzel) Welch says the effort to end the war can’t succeed unless the Democrats are able to win the support of a number of Republicans. Just this week a group of GOP members went to the White House to express their concerns about the war to the President. Welch says this was a very important development.

(Welch) “We can’t get 245 votes to overcome a presidential veto unless we have some Republicans as well unified Democrats. And we have to be relentless. We have to come back as often as we have to to keep the pressure on, because I think the American people are ahead of where the president is and many in Congress.”

(Kinzel) Welch is scheduled to meet tomorrow morning with Vermonters who want to impeach President Bush.

The group is very unhappy that Welch isn’t supporting an impeachment resolution at this time.

Welch says a debate over impeachment would distract and hinder efforts to end the Iraqi war as soon as possible.

For VPR News I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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