Progressive Caucus calls for Iraq withdrawal by Dec. 31

A leading member of the Progressive Caucus has introduced an amendment to the pending Iraq war supplemental budget that calls for a complete withdrawal of U.S. troops and contractors from Iraq by Dec. 31.

The “Lee Amendment,” named after author and Progressive Caucus co-chairwoman Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), is two-pronged. It calls for the “continued protection of members of the Armed Forces … and Department of Defense contractor personnel” and fully funding “the safe and complete withdrawal from Iraq of all members of the Armed Forces and contractor personnel … not later than December 31, 2007.”

At a press conference Thursday, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), a vocal member of the Progressive Caucus who also co-chairs the Out of Iraq Caucus, said the amendment provides a reasonable and simple way out of Iraq and dismissed criticisms that the group’s intent is simply to cut off funds to the troops.

“We are reasonable intelligent legislators elected by the people to make good decisions,” Waters said. “And those people that try to paint us as folks that simply want to get out and leave our troops exposed are incorrect.”

Waters also noted that the Progressive Caucus will continue discussing a date for withdrawal with the Democratic leadership.

“We are intent on working with the leadership to come up with a date that makes good sense for an exit,” she said.

She added that she was encouraged by a recent meeting with the House leadership team. But it remains unclear if House leaders will allow a vote on the measure.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) expressed the caucus’s frustration with the Bush administration’s strategy in her remarks.

“No more chances. No more waivers. No phony certifications. No more sending millions of dollars to send our children into the meat grinder that is Iraq,” she said. “It is time to spend the money to keep them safe and bring them home.”

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), a 2008 presidential candidate, stressed that this amendment fully funds the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

The “Lee Amendment makes sure the money is there to bring troops home,” he said. “People are looking for leadership [to get the troops out of Iraq]. Here it is.”