WASHINGTON -- Unable to force President Bush to speed up the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, House Democrats settled yesterday for a less controversial measure to require more reports on plans to pull forces out.
But in an indication of the debate within Democratic ranks over how to challenge the president's wartime leadership, three senior House members also threatened yesterday to hold up funding for the war and proposed an income tax to pay for it.
Democratic Reps. David R. Obey of Wisconsin, John P. Murtha of Pennsylvania and Jim McGovern of Massachusetts - who have helped lead the drive to end the war this year - accused Bush of unfairly burdening military service members and their families with all the sacrifices for the war.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, quickly announced her opposition to Obey's plan, as Democratic leaders tried to focus on the legislation approved yesterday afternoon. That measure - sponsored by Democratic Reps. Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii and John Tanner of Tennessee, and by Republican Rep. Phil English of Pennsylvania - passed overwhelmingly, 377 to 46.
In an unusual moment of bipartisan consensus on Iraq-related legislation, 181 Republicans voted for the proposal.
The measure appears unlikely to win much support among Democratic leaders in the Senate, who criticized a similar proposal by GOP senators during the summer.
With the demise in recent months of a series of Democratic proposals to set withdrawal timelines, House Democratic leaders embraced a more moderate approach that could attract more Republican support to less confrontational measures on the war.
"Republicans alone, Democrats alone, cannot bring this to an end," Abercrombie said. "It requires us all to work together."
With the blessing of House leaders, including Pelosi, Abercrombie worked with a group of House Democrats on measures that could build bipartisan momentum for changing U.S. policy in Iraq without explicitly ordering a withdrawal.
The measure that was passed yesterday would require the secretary of defense to "submit to the congressional defense committees a report on the status of planning for the redeployment of the armed forces from Iraq." The first report would be due within 60 days of the bill's enactment, with follow-up reports due every 90 days afterward. The legislation also would require the defense secretary to brief Congress on the reports.
The measure was not greeted with universal acclaim on the Democratic side of the aisle. Rep. Lloyd Doggett of Texas said, "Our problem in Iraq is not a lack of reports."
Thirty Democrats voted against the Abercrombie proposal; 16 Republicans opposed it.
Obey, who heads the House Appropriations Committee, voted for it. But he underscored Democratic impatience by threatening yesterday to hold up a $190 billion supplemental funding bill that the Bush administration is expected to seek this fall.
Democrats have resisted withholding money for the war out of concern they would be accused of depriving troops of supplies.
Noam N. Levey writes for the Los Angeles Times.