On Friday, the House of Representatives managed to find just enough votes to pass their most recent military spending bill. This bill, like the other failed attempts, requires all U.S. troops to withdraw from Iraq before September of 2008.
After eight hours of debate over the past two days, the House approved the bill by a slim 218-212 margin. Three Representatives did not vote, while a fourth voted “present.”
President Bush immediately threatened a veto of the bill, saying it had “too much pork” in it, and called the recent attempts of the House to wrest control of the war away from Bush as nothing but “an act of political theater.” He further accused Democrats of voting to “substitute their judgment [in military matters] for that of our military commanders on the ground in Iraq.”
Despite the likely veto, should the bill manage to pass the Senate, which political observers feel is unlikely in the nearly divided upper chamber, Democrats declared today’s vote a victory. “This bill had to be very hard to vote against,” said Democrat John Murtha. “This took care of the troops. This took care of the families of the troops.”
While the money – nearly $124 billion in all – would go toward the military, it was spending incidental to the bill, not to mention the troop pullout requirements, that had all but two Republicans, and many of the 14 Democrats who voted against the bill, up in arms.
“What does throwing money at Bubba Gump, Popeye the sailor man and Mr. Peanut have to do with winning a war? Nothing,” said Representative Sam Johnson, a Texas Republican. “The sweeteners in this bill are political bribery, and our troops deserve more than this.”
The “sweeteners” being referred to are part of the $24 billion in domestic spending added to the bill, money Republicans said was to “buy” votes of Democrats who were on the fence. Part of the $24 billion went to subsidize spinach farmers, shrimp fisherman, and peanut growers. Democrats disagreed, saying the monies were simply going toward needs not addressed when Republicans held the majority.
On Monday, the Senate will begin debate on its own spending bill, which would also impose troop withdraw requirements, a facet of the bill which – according to statements by President Bush – would bring an automatic, immediate veto, for whichever bill reaches his desk first.