House Democrats keep heat on Bush over Iraq war

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday easily defeated a bill pushed by anti-war Democrats to withdraw all U.S. combat troops from Iraq by early next year.

By a vote of 255-171, the House rejected legislation supported by the “Out of Iraq” caucus that would have started U.S. combat troop withdrawals within three months. The Pentagon would have had six more months to finish the troop movement to effectively end the four-year-old war.

“This war is a terrible tragedy and it is time to bring it to an end,” said the bill’s main sponsor, Democratic Rep. James McGovern of Massachusetts.

But California Republican Rep. Jerry Lewis called the legislation “short sighted and dangerous.”

Later on Thursday, the House is expected to vote on a bill providing enough new money to keep the Iraq war running for another two or three months, with the option of approving another batch of combat funds in July. President George W. Bush, who earlier vetoed a move by Congress to attach troop removal deadlines to the funding measure, has vowed to veto this one as well.

Republicans accused the Democratic leadership of scheduling the vote to placate liberals who want a quick U.S. exit from the war in the hope they would later vote for a bill providing another $42.8 billion in emergency military funds for the war and related activities.

The House action came on the same day Bush promised to veto legislation that failed to provide the nearly $100 billion he wants now to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But in a nod to Democrats, Bush also said “it makes sense” to include in a war-funding bill “benchmarks,” or measurements of Iraq’s progress toward stabilizing the country.

His top aides have been negotiating with Congress on specific language.