Welch to vote for Iraq War bill that funds troops, sets date to withdraw

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(Host) Today Congressman Peter Welch will vote for legislation that provides funding for the Iraq War and sets the fall of 2008 as the timeline to withdraw U.S. troops.

Welch says he has some concerns about several provisions of the bill but he argues that it’s the best option on the table for Congress.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) The final vote on this legislation is expected to be very close because a number of liberal Democrats and several conservative members of that party have announced their opposition to the bill for very different reasons.

The legislation authorizes $124 billion for the war and it also calls for U.S. troops to be withdrawn from Iraq by September of 2008.

Conservative Democrats don’t like the idea of setting a deadline for the withdrawal of troops while liberal members of the Democratic caucus think the deadline is too far in the future and they also oppose continued funding for the war.

Speaking on the House floor, Congressman Welch said he would prefer a quicker exit timetable for U.S. troops but he says this bill still achieves some important goals:

(Welch) “If I had a chance to write this bill… I would bring our troops home yesterday, but I did not write this bill so I must measure it based on three criteria: Does it impose accountability on the president and Iraqis? Does it revoke the president’s blank check? Does it establish a date certain – with the force of law – that will end this war? This bill meets each of these objectives.”

(Kinzel) Welch is concerned that the effort to end the Iraqi War will be severely affected if this legislation is defeated:

(Welch) “Regrettably if this bill fails the war will continue unchecked and unabated it’s time for the Iraqis to accept responsibility for shaping their own future.”

(Kinzel) Middlebury College political science professor Eric Davis says this legislation poses some difficult issues for Welch:

(Davis) “He’s coming under cross pressure here. Welch’s constituents in Vermont would like the Iraq War ended sooner rather than later and they would like Congress to vote on something that would establish a date, not very far in the future, by which troops would have to be withdrawn. On the other hand, the leadership in the House – and Welch is a junior member of the leadership as a member of the Rules committee- the leadership wants to put together a bill that will attract 218 votes on the House floor so that it can go out of the House and on to the Senate.”

(Kinzel) Davis says if the legislation is defeated on Friday, it will effectively end the Democrats’ efforts to end the Iraqi War until January of 2009 when a new president will be sworn into office.

For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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