March 11, 2007 — -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is struggling to round up Democratic support for an emergency spending bill that would also pull American troops out of Iraq.
As Democrats seek to lower troop numbers, President Bush is moving in the other direction. Vowing to veto any deadline for withdrawal, Bush asked Congress for 8,200 more troops for Iraq and Afghanistan this weekend.
Those troops, 4,700 for Iraq and 3,500 for Afghanistan, would be in addition to the previously announced 21,500 surge of combat troops in Iraq. With the addition of what the Pentagon describes as at least 7,000 support troops, the troops in Iraq would total at least 32,000.
In a major test for the Democrats' new leader, Pelosi, D-Calif., is working overtime to find the 218 votes she needs from within a deeply divided party to approve a troop withdrawal by August 2008 as part of the supplemental spending bill.
On one side are lawmakers like Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif., whose California district abuts Pelosi's and who wants to end the war and bring the troops home.
"I won't spend another dime, if I had my way, to escalate this war," Woolsey told ABC News. "Part of the supplemental pays for the escalation we voted against, and the only thing that I would spend money on in this supplemental is to bring our troops home safely."
On the other side, are conservative Democrats who want to continue to fund the troops and resist setting a date for a troop withdrawal from Iraq.
"Politically-based deadlines are generally a mistake," said Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., a member of the conservative Blue Dog Democrats. "To put an arbitrary deadline at the end, that our troops will have to be out of the country on a particular date -- that should be set by conditions on the ground, not by conditions in Washington."
Even if Democrats rally behind the speaker to call for an end to the war, the bill is not likely to become law without major changes of text or heart. Republicans in both houses oppose the measure, and White House spokesman Dan Bartlett today reiterated the president's threat to veto a bill he said would handcuff generals directing the war. Yet House Democratic leaders seem determined to approve a measure whose symbolic value could help achieve their goal of accelerating an end to the war in Iraq.
Democrats of all stripes were under pressure this week from a speaker who wants them to back her plan to tie $100 billion in emergency war funding to a goal of removing combat troops by August 2008.
The speaker's campaign reminds Rep. Joseph Sestak, R-Pa. -- who as a retired three-star admiral is the highest-ranking military officer ever elected to the House -- of his recent tours of duty in Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf.
"There is some hard discussion -- politics," Sestek said. "You know, we often say in the military that war is politics by other means. Well, and politics is war by other means also."