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Originally published November 8, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified November 8, 2007 at 1:46 PM

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House to vote on bill that would pay for war, begin bringing troops home

Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House will vote as early as Friday on legislation that would spend $50 billion on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan...

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House will vote as early as Friday on legislation that would spend $50 billion on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan but require that President Bush start bringing troops home.

The money is about a quarter of the $196 billion requested by Bush. It would finance about four months of combat in Iraq, Pelosi told reporters on Thursday.

"This is not a blank check for the president," she said at a Capitol Hill news conference. "This is providing funding for the troops limited to a particular purpose, for a short time frame."

The bill would set the requirement that troop withdrawals begin immediately and that soldiers and Marines spend as much time at home as they do in combat.

The measure also sets a goal that combat end by December 2008. After that, troops left behind should be restricted to a narrow sets of missions, namely counterterrorism, training Iraqi security forces and protecting U.S. assets.

Bush rejected a similar measure in May, and Democrats lacked the votes to override the veto.

Pelosi said the bill also would require that the government rely on an Army field manual when conducting interrogations.The field manual makes no mention of waterboarding, a harsh technique that simulates drowning and is believed to have been used by the CIA.

Since taking control of Congress in January, Democrats have struggled to challenge the president on the war. Holding a shaky majority, they lack the votes to overcome procedural hurdles in the Senate or override a presidential veto.

Pelosi's measure will likely scrape by the House, but become hamstrung in the Senate over Republican objections. Buoyed by recent progress in Iraq, where enemy attacks have declined but political efforts remain in a stalemate, GOP lawmakers are more hopeful than ever that the war is turning a corner. They oppose setting a timetable for troop withdrawals.

Republicans also would likely oppose applying Defense Department interrogation standards government-wide because it would limit the CIA's use of aggressive techniques against high-value terrorism suspects.

On Thursday, the House and Senate were on track to approve $460 billion in annual military spending, as well as a stopgap funding measure to keep the rest of the government running through mid-December.

Without the $50 billion for combat operations, the Defense Department would have to transfer money from less urgent spending accounts to keep the wars afloat.

Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska, the top Republican on the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, predicts the Army would run out of money entirely by January if Congress does not approve some war money.

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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