U.S. Senate approves Iraq troop withdrawal deadline

The U.S. Senate has approved a war funding bill that will also force a troop withdrawal from Iraq within a year. The White House has already promised to veto the legislation in its current form.

Ignoring President Bush's veto threat, the U.S. Democratically controlled Senate signed off on the $USD 122 BLN war spending bill. In a mostly party line 51-47 vote, the Senate narrowly approved legislation which orders Bush to begin withdrawing troops within 120 days of passage and setting a non-binding deadline of March 31, 2008 for all U.S. troops to be out of Iraq.

Senate Republicans were quick to criticise. 

‘This was a challenging bill with a lot of interesting issues, that divided the Senate in many ways,’ Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader, said. 

Democrats fired back at Republican criticism that they are micromanaging the war.

‘This war is not worth the spilling of another drop of American blood,’ Harry Reid, the Majority Leader, stressed.

President Bush once again vowed to veto any legislation with a timetable for troop withdrawal.

‘We stand united in saying loud and clear that when we've got a troop in harm's way, we expect that troop to be fully funded. And we've got commanders making tough decisions on the ground, we expect there to be no strings on our commanders, and that we expect the Congress to be wise about how they spend the people's money,’ he highlighted. 

Meanwhile, Ryan Crocker, the new U.S. Ambassador to Iraq promised to bring change to the war-torn country.

‘Our community of Americans, coalition members, brave Iraqi colleagues must work with a common vision and a common goal and through these efforts we will move closer to that which we all strive for: helping bring about an Iraq where representative government is truly of, by and for all its people,’ he said. 

Before the Senate bill goes to the White House, it must first be reconciled with the House of Representatives version, which also calls for U.S. troops to withdraw from Iraq by next year.

Democrats admit that they do not have enough votes in the Senate to override the Presidential veto. Nonetheless, the passage of the bill marked the boldest challenge to President Bush's handling of the Iraq War. And Democrats have vowed to continue to increase pressure on the White House until the Administration changes course in Iraq.