WASHINGTON (CNN) – The House of Representatives voted 223-201 Thursday to require most U.S. troops to leave Iraq by April 1, 2008.
President Bush vetoed a war-spending bill with a similar withdrawal date in May and has threatened to spike any new effort to set a timetable for a U.S. pullout. His Republican allies in the House said the new measure has no chance of passage.
But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, said Thursday's mixed report on the progress of the war shows it's time for American troops to come home.
Rep. Cole is chairman of the NRCC.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Bush’s poll numbers are hovering around 30 percent and Congress’s are even lower, but National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Cole, R-Oklahoma, said Thursday he “feels good” about his party’s chances in the 2008 congressional races.
In a briefing with reporters, Cole said the NRCC has recruited 15 to 20 “strong candidates” in districts that were closely fought in 2006, and said they were “pragmatic professional decision makers." He also said he expects an anti-incumbent mood to collectively benefit his party, which currently finds itself in the minority.
But Cole’s job is made more difficult by the NRCC’s financial disadvantage relative to its counterpart, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Cole said Thursday that the committee raised between $13 million and $14 million dollars in the second quarter, and currently only has $2 million cash on hand. Meanwhile the DCCC said Thursday it had raised $17 million in the same period and has $19.5 million on hand - nearly ten times more than the NRCC.
Both committees face debts of around $4 million.
As for the President’s influence in the congressional races, Cole said "he won't be the decisive figure in the '08 election. There will be a new face on the Republican Party."
Cole also downplayed the effect of any particular Democratic candidate in motivating his party’s voters.
“I don’t think people vote for or against their representative on the basis of their presidential nominee,” he said.
– CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney
Two Iowa strategists are leaving the McCain campaign.
DES MOINES, Iowa (CNN) – Two of Sen. John McCain's top Iowa political consultants announced their departure Thursday, just two days after four of the Republican presidential candidate's national strategists also called it quits.
Ed Failor Jr. and Karen Slifka, both senior advisers to the campaign, have decided to move on. Failor told CNN the primary reason for his decision was the fact that national campaign manager Terry Nelson was one of the four no longer with the campaign.
"I was part of a team," said Failor. "I decided to serve in the effort led by Terry, who was a friend of mine for years, and I just decided I was not going to continue in the campaign."
Failor said the decision to leave is not necessarily a reflection of any lack of support for the candidate.
"I've cut my ties officially and behaviorally, and I still have a great deal of respect for the senator."
McCain's Iowa communications coordinator, Tim Miller, said the political consultants' departure does not affect the campaign "at this stage."
"We're still proceeding, and we're moving forward to compete in the Iowa caucuses."
– CNN's Chris Welch
Related: McCain campaign running out of money
A Florida state chairman for McCain was arrested Wednesday.
(CNN) – A day after four of Sen. John McCain's top political strategists stepped down, the Arizona Republican's presidential campaign was dealt another setback when the co-chairman of his Florida campaign was arrested Wednesday for allegedly offering an undercover police officer money for a sex act, Titusville police said.
Florida State Rep. Bob Allen faces charges of solicitation for prostitution after he was arrested in a Titusville city park that had been under surveillance, police said.
He allegedly offered an undercover police officer $20 for the unspecified act.
Allen told CNN affiliate WFTV the incident was "a very big misunderstanding."
"This is a very gross mistake, a very big mistake," he said, adding that this is what the judicial system is for.
Allen said he helped build the park, and was there looking around.
There was no initial comment from the McCain campaign.
In March, the McCain campaign issued a news release on its Florida leadership team, saying, "Allen will serve as a House co-chair for Senator McCain's campaign."
Allen was elected to the Florida House in 2000.
His arrest comes a day after McCain's campaign manager Terry Nelson and chief strategist John Weaver announced their departures in joint statements released by the campaign.
Vitter, a Louisiana Republican, said in a statement, "This was a very serious sin in my past for which I am, of course, completely responsible. Several years ago, I asked for and received forgiveness from God and from my wife in confession and marriage counseling."
It was the second blow for Giuliani's campaign. Last month, South Carolina Treasurer Thomas Ravenel, the state chairman for Giuliani's campaign, was indicted on federal cocaine charges.
– CNN Political Desk Managing Editor Steve Brusk
TIME.com: Behind McCain's Campaign Chaos
Edwards is participating in a NAACP forum Thursday.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Former Sen. John Edwards’ presidential campaign headquarters in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, was evacuated late Thursday morning as police checked a suspicious package delivered to the office.
An Edwards spokesman told CNN they were evacuated “as a precaution” and said there was no known threat.
Aerial footage from CNN affiliate WTVD’s helicopter showed the bomb squad on the scene and a robot being moved towards the building. Bomb squad technicians could be seen putting on protective gear.
In a statement, Deputy Campaign Manager Jonathan Prince said, "We received a suspicious package at our campaign headquarters this morning. On the advice of the authorities, we evacuated the building and will continue to take every possible precaution”
Chapel Hill Police and the FBI were investigating.
Edwards was in Detroit, speaking at an NAACP forum during the situation.
Earlier this year, the office was evacuated twice after receiving letters containing white powder. Those packages tested negative for dangerous materials.
1:30 p.m. ET Update: CNN has learned police have allowed campaign staff back into the building.
4:15 p.m. ET Update: The suspicious package contained beeping watches according to Captain Bob Overton with the Chapel Hill Police Department. Special Agent Newsom Summerlin from the FBI field office in Charlotte said his office will not be initiating a criminal investigation.
– CNN's Steve Brusk and Cristy Lenz
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The House is debating a bill Thursday calling for most U.S. troops to leave Iraq by April 1, 2008.
Democrats say they are confident that a handful of Republicans will support their legislation.
Representatives Walter Jones, R-North Carolina, and Wayne Gilchrest, R-Maryland, voted for previous Democratic attempts to set a timetable for withdrawal, and they will do so again today.
"After four and a half years of staying the course, what's the definition of staying the course? And the definition of victory? To me, this is a step in the right direction," said Jones.
But House Republican Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, believes that most of his Republican colleagues are unwilling to challenge the president's handling of the war until General David Petraeus releases his report on September 15.
At a closed door meeting on Wednesday, Boehner called Republicans who break with the president "wimps."
"It was a way of illustrating the point that we ought to give the generals on the ground and our troops a chance to succeed," said Boehner, in defense of his comment.
– CNN Producer Evan Glass
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Three people were arrested in the Senate visitor’s gallery Thursday for disrupting the chamber’s morning prayer, led for the first time by a Hindu clergyman.
As Rajan Zed, director of interfaith relations at a Hindu temple in Nevada, began to lead the brief prayer, two women and one man shouted, “This is an abomination,” according to the Associated Press.
Capitol Police Sergeant Kimberly Schneider tells CNN that the three were arrested in the Senate visitors’ gallery for “disruption of Congress.”
While their religion is not clear, one of the protesters told the Associated Press they were “Christians and patriots.”
On their Web site this week, the American Family Association criticized allowing a Hindu clergyman to deliver the prayer and urged supporters to call senators to ask the event be canceled.
But Tim Wildmon, the president of the American Family Association, told CNN he did not know the names of the people arrested, and said, “We didn’t organize or encourage anything like that."
"We would not ever encourage shouting in the gallery like that, we asked people to contact their senators to show their disapproval," he added.
Shortly after the incident, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said on the floor, “If people have any misunderstanding about Indians and Hindus, all they have to do is think of Gandhi… who gave his life for peace."
– CNN's Evan Glass and Abbi Tatton contributed to this report
Tancredo was the only GOP candidate to attend the NAACP presidential forum Thursday.
Tancredo was truly all by himself on stage at the NAACP presidential forum in Detroit. Invitations went out to the entire GOP field, but Tancredo was the only Republican to accept. He walked out, passing empty podiums bearing the names of the other candidates. He peeked around a few of the podiums looking at the names, and playfully lined up behind the wrong one.
“Should we wait a few minutes to see if the other guys show up?” he asked to laughter. “Do they know something I don’t know?”
Addressing the gathering in Cobo Arena, Tancredo said, “The fact is, I know something they don’t know.” He noted that while he and the organization “don’t agree on every issue,” they share “a very common cause.”
The Democratic candidates will appear at the forum later Thursday.
– CNN Political Producer Matt Hoye
President Bush answers reporters' questions about Iraq Thursday during a White House news conference.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - A report on U.S.-set benchmarks for Iraq shows "satisfactory progress" in eight areas, while highlighting that there's "more work to do" in other areas, President Bush said Thursday.
"Of the 18 benchmarks Congress asked us to measure, we can report that satisfactory progress is being made in eight areas," Bush said during a White House news conference.
Iraqis "have provided the three brigades they promised for operations in and around Baghdad," said the president. However, Iraqis have "not done enough to prepare for local elections or pass a law to share in oil revenues."
Time.com: Can Bush Save the Surge?
President Bush answers reporters' questions about Iraq Thursday during a White House news conference.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Bush on Thursday called the commutation of Scooter Libby's prison sentence a "fair and balanced decision" and said "it's been a tough issue for a lot of people in the White House."
So, Bush said, "it's run its course and now we're going to move on."
"I haven't spent a lot of time talking about the testimony that people throughout my administration were forced to give as a result of the special prosecutor," Bush said.
"I didn't ask them during the time and I haven't asked them since. I’m aware of the fact that, perhaps, somebody in the administration did disclose the name of that person.
"You know, I've often thought about what had happened if that person come forth and said, I did it. Would we have had this, you know, endless hours of investigation and a lot of money being spent on this matter?"
Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, was sentenced to 30 months in prison, with two years supervised release and a $250,000 fine, when he was convicted earlier this year of perjury and obstruction of justice during an investigation into the leak of the name of a CIA operative.
Bush determined the 30-month sentence was "excessive" and commuted the prison term on July 2, while specifically saying that the supervised release and fine should remain in effect.