The House and Senate has reached an agreement on the supplemental funding bill for the Iraq war. The Washington Post reports that the timetable for withdrawal could be initiated as early as July 1, and maintains some pork-barrel items to ensure passage of the bill. In addition, the Democrats have attached their minimum-wage increase to the bill, an odd addition to war funding:
House and Senate negotiators reached agreement yesterday on war-funding legislation that would begin bringing U.S. troops home from Iraq as early as July, setting a goal of ending U.S. combat operations by no later than March.
The $124 billion bill, slated for final votes in the House and Senate tomorrow and Thursday, sets up a veto clash with President Bush by week's end. Some congressional Democrats had considered making advisory all dates for withdrawing U.S. troops in the hopes of persuading Bush to sign the bill, which Democratic leaders said provides $96 billion -- more than the White House requested -- for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But with the president standing firm on his plans to veto any language on the timing of the war, Democratic leaders stuck to binding dates for initial troop pullouts.
Democrats hope to put the president on the spot for rejecting the money he has said he badly needs to prosecute the war. The compromise bill provides $95.5 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, $4 billion more than he requested. It would spend on veterans' health care $1.8 billion that Bush had not asked for and boosts funding for troop training and equipment. It also includes $2 billion more than the White House requested for homeland security.
On the domestic side, Democrats stripped out some items that Bush and congressional Republicans ridiculed, but defied criticism on others. The final legislation will no longer fund peanut storage facilities and relief for spinach farmers harmed by product recalls. Nor will it aid Christmas tree farms, or beet or sugar cane growers. But it keeps $3.5 billion in agricultural assistance, less than the House and Senate had approved. It retains $500 million for wildfire emergencies, and $425 million for a rural schools and roads program that was set to expire.
Note that this paragraph on minimum wage doesn't appear until the last paragraph in the story. Democrats are throwing in whatever they can to get this passed in Congress, which is probably headed for a White House veto anyways. That means Congress will have to start from scratch, unless they can override the veto, but with such a narrow majority, that's unlikely.
Also note the fine print on the Democrats withdrawal plan: "After combat forces are withdrawn, some troops could remain to protect U.S. facilities and diplomats, pursue terrorist organizations and train and equip Iraqi security forces." Which is what the troops in Iraq are doing today. There are no details on how few troops would be left for this mission, or how they would be chosen.