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FRIDAY, MAY 4, 2007

2 months'
vacation for Iraq's parliament?

Plans for summer break
angers U.S. congressmen

By Anne Flaherty
Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON — Lawmakers divided over whether to keep U.S. troops in Iraq are finding common ground on at least one topic: They are furious that Iraqi politicians are considering a lengthy break this summer.

“If they go off on vacation for two months while our troops fight — that would be the outrage of outrages,” said Rep. Chris Shays, R-Conn.

The Iraqi parliament’s recess, starting this July, would likely come without Baghdad politicians reaching agreements considered key to easing sectarian tensions. Examples include regulating distribution of the country’s oil wealth and reversing measures that have excluded many Sunnis from jobs and government positions because of Baath party membership.

Iraqi politicians said Thursday the break might not happen or may be less than two months, but said it should be of no concern to U.S. lawmakers.

Talk of the adjournment in Iraq comes amid a heated debate in Congress on the pullout of U.S. troops in Iraq.

Democratic leaders in the House are considering a proposal that would pay for the Iraq war at least through July but cut off funding after that if the Iraqi government does not meet certain political and security goals, congressional officials said.

The bill would be a direct challenge to President Bush, who has demanded Congress fund the war without strings attached. This week, Bush vetoed a $124.2 billion bill that would have funded operations in Iraq and Afghanistan while requiring troops to begin coming home on Oct. 1.

The developments occurred as White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten held separate meetings in the House and Senate, the first compromise talks since the House failed to override Bush's veto Wednesday.

In a closed-door leadership meeting Thursday, Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., suggested that the House guarantee funding of the war only through July. The bill would provide additional money for operations after that point but give Congress a chance to deny those funds be used if the Iraqi government does not meet certain benchmarks.

Under Obey's proposal, members would vote separately on whether to fund some of the domestic spending in the Iraq bill that Bush opposed, such as agricultural assistance.

The plan was described by Democratic aides familiar with the plan who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss them. According to a senior Democratic leadership aide, the plan has not been endorsed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi or in the Senate, and had yet to be described to rank-and-file members.

Obey declined to comment.

The proposal comes as Pelosi, D-Calif., tried to appease a large number of House Democrats who are reluctant to vote for a war spending bill unless it moves toward getting troops out of Iraq. Such a plan would show such Democrats that the speaker is not willing to back down to Bush and, at the same time, wants to support the troops.

The proposal, however, is unlikely to find similar backing in the Senate, where some leading Democrats say they want to fund the bill through September.

One option for Pelosi would be to pass the bill only to agree to drop it later when it must be negotiated in the Senate.

Numerous other ideas are being floated in the Senate, most of which involve some combination of goals the Iraqi government must reach. The key impasse, however, is whether to require the withdrawal of U.S. troops if the benchmarks are not met.

Democratic Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., and Robert Byrd of West Virginia proposed Thursday a measure to repeal the 2002 resolution authorizing force in Iraq. Under the bill, Bush would be required in October to seek Congress' blessing to continue operations in Iraq.

"If the president will not bring himself to accept reality, it is time for Congress to bring reality to him," said Clinton, a presidential contender for 2008.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino immediately shot down Clinton's proposal as a nonstarter, adding that such a bold suggestion was "troubling" in light of ongoing negotiations.

"Here we go again," Perino said in a statement. "The Senate is trying another way to put a surrender date on the calendar. Welcome to politics '08-style."

Democrats said they were acting on a mandate from voters to end the war.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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