With very little fanfare, a House-Senate conference has just approved the Iraq war supplemental spending bill, NBC's Mike Viqueira reports. The measure now heads to the House floor Wednesday and the Senate on Thursday. Then it's on to the president for a certain veto next week. The measure calls for a withdrawal to begin by October 1, with a "goal" of having combat troops gone by March 2008.
Reid and Pelosi issued this statement: "If the President follows through on his veto threat, he will be the one who has failed to provide our troops and our veterans with the resources they need and it will be the President who has rejected the benchmarks he announced in January to measure success in Iraq. The bill ensures our troops are combat-ready before they are deployed to Iraq, provides our troops the resources and health care they deserve in Iraq and here at home, and responsibly winds down this war."
NBC's Kelly O'Donnell says Bush will make a statement on the war supplemental before departing on Marine One at 11:15am for his trip to New York to talk about No Child Left Behind. Advisers add the president will speak for as many as eight to ten minutes.
The New York Times: "Aware that the votes do not exist to override the veto, lawmakers said they expect that Congress and Mr. Bush would eventually agree on a spending measure without the specific timetable, but with benchmarks for the Iraqi government."
The Los Angeles Times: "In a nod to moderate Senate Democrats, the compromise approved Monday sets a nonbinding goal for completing a withdrawal. But it maintains the link between the withdrawal timeline and the performance of the Iraqi government. The compromise calls for a withdrawal to begin July 1 if Bush does not certify that the Iraqi government is making progress on a series of 'reconciliation initiatives,' with a goal of completing the withdrawal within 180 days, which would end Dec. 27. If Bush demonstrates that the Iraqi government is making progress, the Democratic plan mandates that the withdrawal begin Oct. 1, and sets a goal to complete the pullout by March 28."