Brushing aside a veto threat, the Democratic-controlled House voted Thursday to give U.S. troops guaranteed time at home between deployments to Iraq.

The vote was 229-194 on the legislation, designed to complicate the Pentagon's ability to rotate sufficient troops into the war zone.

"This is about our families and our troops," said Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Calif., who repeatedly said that opposing the measure was "a vote for the status quo" in a war in its fifth year.

On the other side, Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif., called the legislation "a backhanded attempt to force a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq." Noting that the bill does not apply to troops ordered to Afghanistan, he said, "If this were a sincere effort ... it would apply to all deployments."

Democrats staged the vote as Defense Secretary Robert Gates became the latest administration official to acknowledge miscalculations in Iraq, and a national public opinion poll said support for a troop withdrawal exceeds 60 percent.

Gates told reporters on the way back from the Middle East that six months after additional troops were ordered to the war zone, he is more optimistic about security improvements in Iraq than about chances for political reconciliation by the government there.

"In some ways we probably all underestimated the depth of the mistrust and how difficult it would be for these guys to come together on legislation," Gates said of Iraqi's squabbling political leaders.

"The kinds of legislation they're talking about will establish the framework of Iraq for the future so it's almost like our constitutional convention. ... And the difficulty in coming to grips with those, we may all have underestimated six or eight months ago."

In the U.S., a Pew Foundation poll reported that more than half of all self-described Democrats who were surveyed want Congress to push Bush harder to change course in Iraq. A plurality of independents agrees.

After months of challenges to the president, there is little doubt that's what the Democratic leadership has in mind.

Both houses will return from a month-long vacation in September to confront administration requests for more funding for the war. Recent votes suggest there are majorities in both the House and Senate for a troop withdrawal deadline.

That made the legislation relating to at-home time for U.S. troops a relatively minor measure, particularly since it allows Bush to waive the requirement if he decides it's necessary to meet national security interests.