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Originally published May 24, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified May 24, 2007 at 2:01 AM

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Capital Watch

War foes begin drive to torpedo funds bill

Anti-war groups waged a last-ditch effort Wednesday to block an Iraq spending bill after Democrats dropped deadlines for troop withdrawals...

WASHINGTON — Anti-war groups waged a last-ditch effort Wednesday to block an Iraq spending bill after Democrats dropped deadlines for troop withdrawals from the legislation, conceding that they did not have enough votes to override a threatened veto from President Bush.

The groups flooded congressional offices with phone calls and e-mails and threatened long-term political reprisals if Democrats decide to support the legislation when it comes before the House and the Senate, where voting is expected to start tonight, possibly extending through Friday morning.

MoveOn.org, a leading anti-war group, rallied its 3.2 million members in an e-mail alert Wednesday morning that declared that "every single Democrat must oppose this bill." The group warned that it would consider backing primary challengers to Democrats who vote yes. "This is going to be a very important vote," said Eli Pariser, MoveOn.org's executive director. "It will signal who is very serious about ending the war, and who is posturing."

The nearly $120 billion package would finance the war through Sept. 30. It includes none of the forceful terms on Iraq that Democrats had originally sought, including a requirement that troop withdrawals begin later this year. As negotiators tied up loose ends Wednesday night, Democrats appeared deeply split on whether to back the legislation.

House OKs bills boosting vet benefits

The House on Wednesday marked the coming Memorial Day holiday by approving a spate of bills to benefit veterans, including one aimed at improving screening and treatment of veterans with traumatic brain injuries.

The House also agreed to extend health-care eligibility for combat veterans, provide more chiropractic care and expand outreach programs.

The bills "keep our contract with our nation's veterans," said Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Bob Filner, D-Calif.

Consumer-agency nominee withdraws

President Bush's pick to head the Consumer Product Safety Commission withdrew his nomination Wednesday amid strong opposition from some Senate Democrats because of his career as a manufacturers' lobbyist.

The White House said it was reluctantly accepting the decision by Michael Baroody after "some members in the Senate rushed to judgment."

Baroody is a lobbyist for the National Association of Manufacturers. His critics on Capitol Hill said he would not provide the leadership the agency needed in order to protect consumers.

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Clinton rejects advice to skip Iowa caucuses

Warning that her campaign needs "a new approach to winning," Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's deputy campaign manager wrote a memo this week urging her to bypass next year's Iowa caucuses to focus time and money on states where she is faring better.

Her advisers fearing backlash from Iowa Democrats who cast the first votes of the 2008 presidential race, Clinton denounced the memo hours after it leaked from her headquarters and played down an internal debate over campaign strategy. "I am unalterably committed to competing in Iowa," said Clinton, D-N.Y.

The memo from Mike Henry emerged days after a Des Moines Sunday Register poll of likely caucus-goers showed Clinton trailing rivals John Edwards and Barack Obama in Iowa, which is to hold its caucuses Jan. 14, 2008.

All the major presidential campaigns have been struggling to adapt to next year's vastly accelerated calendar, with such states as California and New York holding primaries within weeks of Iowa and the other traditional small-state powerhouse, New Hampshire.

Seattle Times news services

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