House votes for Iraq troop withdrawal
By Guy Dinmore in Washington
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007
Published: April 26 2007 00:12 | Last updated: April 26 2007 03:25
The US House of Representatives on Wednesday night voted 218-208 to approve an Iraq spending bill that includes a timetable for troop withdrawal.
The measure is expected to reach the president’s desk within days. President Bush has promised to veto the legislation, which now goes to the Senate. Democrats need a two-thirds majority to override a veto.
Mr Bush has said a sudden troop withdrawal Iraq would be an “unforgivable mistake” that could spread chaos across the Middle East.
The legislation would provide more than $90bn (€66bn, £45bn) of fresh funds for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan but require withdrawal to start in October, with a goal of ending combat by April 1 2008.
Earlier on Wednesday, the White House rejected an attempt by Democrats to force Condoleezza Rice, secretary of state, to testify before Congress about the Bush administration’s use of intelligence to justify its invasion of Iraq, in particular the since discredited assertion that Saddam Hussein had tried to acquire uranium from Niger.
The House committee on oversight and government reform voted 21-10 in favour of issuing a subpoena to Ms Rice, who has refused to testify before the committee on the grounds that she had already provided all necessary information.
“We have hit a brick wall with the secretary of state,” said Henry Waxman, the California Democrat who chairs the committee.
The House judiciary committee on Wednesday also voted to seek a judicial order to compel testimony from Monica Goodling, a White House liaison for Albert Gonzales, attorney general, about the firing of eight federal prosecutors. Separately, the Senate judiciary committee approved, but did not issue, a subpoena for Sara Taylor, a deputy to presidential adviser Karl Rove.
Democrats, who won control of Congress in the November midterm elections, are correcting what they see as the failure of the Republicans to exercise oversight over the past six years. Though some may not gain traction, the subpoena attempts reinforce the image of a government under siege.
Mr Waxman said he was not accusing Ms Rice of lying. But he alleged she issued a “false statement” when she said she had not known from the CIA that the intelligence on Niger was wrong before Mr Bush made the claim in his January, 2003, State of the Union speech less than two months before invading Iraq.
“Republicans on this committee had four years to investigate this misleading intelligence that got us into the war in Iraq,” Mr Waxman said. “But they didn’t hold one hearing. They didn’t issue one subpoena. And they didn’t even ask a single question.”
Mr Bush’s now famous 16 words – “the British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa” – have been the subject of in depth reports in the US and UK. Britain’s Butler report in effect exonerated Mr Bush, but the CIA said that phrase should not have been included in his speech.
Either way, the White House was quick to deny Mr Waxman his wish to probe further.
Dana Perino, deputy press secretary, said there was a longstanding policy that senior advisors to the president were not available for testimony before Congress. That included Ms Rice, who was national security advisor in 2003, she said.
“This policy stems from the president’s acknowledged need to get candid and confidential advice from his staff,” she added. She also said the subject had been “exhaustively investigated” and that Ms Rice had addressed the issue during her confirmation hearings as secretary of state.
Republicans in the House accused the Democrats of waging political theatre.