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Democrats brace for next vote on war funds

Unable to override a probable veto of a war spending bill by President Bush, Democrats in Congress prepare vocal antiwar activists for disappointment.

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Four years after the fall of Baghdad, as US forces see the highest casualty levels of the war, Congress faces votes this week over the terms under which it will continue to fund the Iraq campaign.

Democrats, who won control of the House and Senate on an election-year promise to wind down America's combat role in Iraq, are scaling back expectations that they can muster enough votes to force President Bush to change course.

But a congressional debate over the matter set for this week, they say, will step up pressure on Iraqi leaders to reach a political settlement that could help end the war – and show that antiwar forces are gaining momentum on Capitol Hill.

At issue is whether lawmakers will set a date for withdrawal of most US armed forces. Last month, the House voted to require Mr. Bush to end a US combat role in Iraq by the end of August 2008. The Senate set a target date five months earlier. Bush says he will veto any bill that includes any such timetable, and Republicans say they have ample votes to uphold that veto.

In Michigan on Friday, the president said that Iraqi and American forces are "making incremental gains in Baghdad" and that Congress could scuttle it by delaying funds needed by US forces. The delay in approving emergency war funding "is beginning to affect the ability of the Pentagon to fund our troops and all our missions," he said.

In response, House Democrats cite Army estimates that the Pentagon has what it needs to pay for the war through June. "Although it is the intention of Congress to send you an appropriations measure next week, should you follow through on your threat not to sign it, it is clear that there is ample time to work together to devise an alternative," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other House Democratic leaders in a letter on April 20.

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