The U.S. House has given its approval, by a small margin, for a bill that calls for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq by the fall of 2008. Congressman Peter Welch voted for the legislation.
At the beginning of the week, Welch says he wasn’t sure how he was going to vote on the bill.
VPRs Bob Kinzel looks at the factors that influenced Welch’s decision.
(Kinzel) The final vote was 218 to 212 – and until the last 24 hours the outcome of the bill was very much in doubt.
One of the keys to passing the legislation was winning the support of those members of the Democratic caucus who want Congress to take much bolder steps to end the war.
Congressman Peter Welch counts himself as a member of this group:
(Welch) “It was difficult. I believe the war is wrong, we should have never have gone in there. I think we should end the war immediately. We do not have 218 votes for that policy. So, those of us who want to end the war had to make a practical judgment about was this legislation going to achieve the goal – if not as quickly as we want – will it achieve it?”
At the beginning of the week, Welch says he wasn’t sure how he was going to vote on the legislation. When anti war members were able to include a specific timeframe for the withdrawal of troops in the bill, he was persuaded to vote for it:
(Welch) “When this legislation was originally drafted it did not have a timetable. It didn’t have a date certain to end the war. We held together to persuade the Speaker to put a date in, and it was originally December 31, it then went to August 31, and many of us were holding out until the last minute in the hopes that we might even be able to push that back farther.”
President Bush has vowed to veto any legislation that includes a timeframe for withdrawing U.S. troops. If the President follows through on that threat, Welch says the next step for anti war members of Congress will be to try to win Republican support for their goals:
(Welch) “That’s going to require citizens in those districts of Republican congressmen to be sending them the message that they want a change in direction. I mean, the President’s going to listen much more intently when he starts hearing some Republican congressmen and women telling him he’s got to change his position.”
The U.S. Senate is expected to consider similar legislation next week. It’s not at all clear at this time if Senate Democrats can muster a majority of votes to support a definite timetable for the withdrawal of troops.
For VPR News I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier