WASHINGTON – House Democratic leaders have coalesced around legislation that would require troops to come home from Iraq within six months if that country’s leaders fail to meet promises to help reduce violence there, party officials said Thursday.
The plan would retain a Democratic proposal prohibiting the deployment to Iraq of troops with insufficient rest or training or who already have served there for more than a year. Under the plan, such troops could only be sent to Iraq if President Bush waives those standards and reports to Congress each time.
The proposal is the latest attempt by Democrats to resolve deep divisions within the party on how far to go to scale back U.S. involvement in Iraq. Rep. James Moran said the latest version has the support of party leadership and said he believes it is final and has the best chance at attracting broad support.
“We’re going to report out” a war spending bill “that’s responsive to the will of the voters last November and brings our troops home as soon and safely as possible,” Moran, D-Va., said Thursday.
Moran, a member of the House committee that oversees military spending, said the plan was discussed in a closed-door meeting of committee Democrats on Thursday.
President Bush said the Iraqis had promised to meet certain goals when he offered to send 21,500 more troops to Iraq. For example, the Iraqis pledged to spend more money on reconstruction and reach a political agreement to share the nation’s oil resources.
If the Iraqis fail to live up to their promises, some troops could be left behind under the Democrats’ plan to train Iraqi troops or conduct counterterrorism missions, Moran said.
The legislation also would require Bush to seek congressional approval for any military operations in Iran.
The Senate, meanwhile, could begin floor debate on Iraq as early as next week. Sens. Joseph Biden, D-Del., and Carl Levin, D-Mich., have proposed a resolution that would call for combat troops to come home by March 2008.