WASHINGTON – Bowing to President Bush, the Democratic-controlled House reluctantly approved fresh billions for the Iraq war on Thursday, minus the troop withdrawal timeline that drew his earlier veto.
The 280-142 vote sent the bill to the Senate for final passage, expected later Thursday night.
"The Iraqi government needs to show real progress in return for America's continued support and sacrifice," said Bush, and he warned that August could prove to be a bloody month for U.S. troops in Baghdad's murderous neighborhoods.
Five months in power on Capitol Hill, Democrats coupled their concession to the president with pledges to challenge his policies anew. "This debate will go on," vowed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, announcing plans to hold votes by fall on four separate measures seeking a change in course.
From the White House to the Capitol, the day's events closed out one chapter in an epic, wartime struggle pitting Congress against commander in chief over the future of a war that has claimed the lives of more than 3,400 U.S. troops.
House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio choked back tears as he stirred memories of the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. "After 3,000 of our fellow citizens died at the hands of these terrorists, when are we going to take them on? When are we going to defeat them," he asked.
In a highly unusual maneuver, House Democratic leaders crafted a procedure that allowed their rank and file to oppose money for the war then step aside so Republicans could provide the bulk of votes needed to send it to the Senate for final approval.
Moments earlier, the House voted 348-73 to include a separate package of domestic spending.
After months of struggle with the White House, Democrats emphasized their reluctance to allow the war to continue.
"I hate this agreement," added Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, who played a key role in talks with the White House that yielded the measure.