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Progressives Pledge Votes on Iraq


By: Josephine Hearn, Politico

Four prominent liberal Democrats said Thursday they have given House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) the support she needs to pass the $124 billion wartime spending bill, even though they remain steadfastly opposed to any additional funding for the war.

California Democrats Barbara Lee, Maxine Waters, Lynn Woolsey and Diane E. Watson said they did not want to stand in the way of the bill and have urged other liberal lawmakers to vote for it.

"This is a helpful development because every vote counts,” said Pelosi spokesman Nadeam Elshami. Still, he would not say whether the new progressive support would ensure passage of the emergency funding bill for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Pelosi and other Democratic leaders had been struggling to muster the 218 votes they needed to pass the measure, which also sets new readiness requirements for U.S. forces, benchmarks for the Iraqi government and a timetable for the withdraw of U.S. combat troops by Aug. 31, 2008.

Much of their opposition came from progressives, led by the four California Democrats, who felt the bill did not mandate a quick end to the war.

With nearly all House Republicans planning to oppose the measure, Democratic leaders have been having a tough time rounding up enough support for approval before Friday’s planned vote on the House floor. Debate on the bill started Thursday.

Pelosi approached the progressives and asked them to help her change lawmakers’ minds, two Democratic aides said. And they have finalized a deal to deliver the needed support.

“After two grueling weeks of meetings, progressive members of Congress brought forth an agreement that provided the momentum to pass a supplemental spending bill that, for the first time, establishes a timeline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq,” the four California congresswomen said in a statement.

One well-placed Democratic aide said Pelosi had approached the progressives asking them to supply four votes, but that they ultimately pledged to deliver about ten. It was unclear whether the progressives received any concessions in return.

“We have released people who were beginning…to be pulled in a different direction,” Waters said. “We don’t want them to be put in a position where they look like they are undermining Nancy’s speakership.”

"I have struggled with this decision,’’ Lee said, “but I finally decided that, while I cannot betray my conscience, I cannot stand in the way of passing a measure that puts a concrete end date on this unnecessary war.’’

Several other members have also dropped their opposition to the bill in recent days.

Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.) said he now planned to vote for it. “I’m not excited about it, but under the circumstances, it was the best we could do,” he said.

And Rep. Albert Wynn (D-Md.) said he, too, now supports it.

"Having spoken with Speaker Pelosi, I believe that this is the best bill the House can successfully pass that will end the war and bring our troops home from Iraq,” he said. “This is not the bill that many of us want, it's the best bill we are likely to get, and I am going to support it.”

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