WASHINGTON – In grudging concessions to President Bush, Democrats intend to draft an Iraq war-funding bill without a timeline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops and shorn of billions of dollars in spending on domestic programs, officials said Monday.
The legislation would include the first federal minimum wage increase in more than a decade, a top priority for the Democrats who took control of Congress in January, the officials added.
While details remain subject to change, the measure is designed to close the books by Friday on a bruising veto fight between Bush and the Democratic-controlled Congress over the war. It would provide funds for military operations in Iraq through Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year.
Democrats in both houses are expected to seek other opportunities to challenge Bush's handling of the unpopular conflict later this year.
Democratic officials stressed the legislation was subject to change. They spoke on condition of anonymity, saying they were not authorized to discuss provisions before a planned presentation to members of the party's rank and file later in the day.
Democrats in Congress have insisted for months they would not give Bush a blank check for his war policies, and officials said the legislation is expected to include political and military goals for the Iraqi government to meet toward establishment of a more democratic society.
Failure to make progress toward the goals could cost the Iraqis some of the reconstruction aid the United States has promised, although it was not clear whether Democrats intended to give Bush power to order the aid to be spent regardless of progress.
Several officials said it was possible that Democrats would attempt to draft a second bill, to include much of the domestic spending that Bush and congressional Republicans have said they oppose.
Either way, Democratic leaders have said they hope to clear a war spending bill through both houses of Congress and send it to Bush's desk by week's end. They added the intention was to avoid a veto.
Bush vetoed one bill this spring after Democrats included a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops in Iraq, and Republicans in the House upheld his rejection of the measure.
The House then passed legislation to provide war funds in two 60-day installments. Bush threatened a veto, and the measure was sidetracked in the Senate in favor of a non-controversial bill that merely pledged to give the troops the resources they need.
That set the stage for the current House-Senate negotiations on a measure to send to Bush.