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UPDATED: We updated this item on Oct. 6 and changed the ruling to True. See explanation at end.
During an exchange with Sarah Palin in the St. Louis vice presidential debate on Oct. 2, 2008, Joe Biden tried to rebut a charge that Barack Obama had failed to "fund the troops" in Iraq by saying John McCain had done the same thing on a different bill.
Palin began the exchange by saying that "Barack Obama voted against funding troops there after promising that he would not do so. And Senator Biden, I respected you when you called him out on that. You said that his vote was political and you said it would cost lives. And Barack Obama at first said he would not do that. He turned around under political pressure and he voted against funding the troops."
Biden replied that Obama had offered a withdrawal plan that would shift responsibility to the Iraqis over the next 16 months and would draw down U.S. combat troops. As for the allegation about failing to fund the troops, Biden said, "John McCain voted the exact same way. John McCain voted against funding the troops because of an amendment he voted against had a timeline in it to draw down American troops. And John said I'm not going to fund the troops if in fact there's a timeline."
Republicans candidates have charged that Obama "failed to fund the troops" because of his May 24, 2007, vote against an appropriations bill that included funding for the military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. (It passed, 80-14.)
We addressed that charge in this item and found it was misleading to say Obama did not want to fund the troops. We noted that Obama's primary reason was that the bill lacked a timetable for withdrawal. “We must fund our troops," he said at the time. "But we owe them something more. We owe them a clear, prudent plan to relieve them of the burden of policing someone else's civil war. ... We must negotiate a better plan that funds our troops, signals to the Iraqis that it is time for them to act and that begins to bring our brave servicemen and women home safely and responsibly.”
Biden's rebuttal in the vice presidential debate seems to be a reference to a war spending bill that first passed the Senate in March 2007. When Biden refers to an "amendment," we believe he was referring to the provision that would require a withdrawal of troops. And Biden is correct that McCain voted against the bill when it included that requirement.
The bill, H.R. 1591 , included $97 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and set a goal to withdraw most U.S. troops in Iraq by 2008. It passed 51-47 but was opposed by most Republicans because of its timetable for withdrawal.
McCain said he opposed the bill because it had been loaded with political pork and because it required a withdrawal regardless of conditions in Iraq.
"Such a mandate would have grave consequences for the future of Iraq, the stability of the Middle East and the security of Americans at home and abroad. For these reasons, I do not support this bill," McCain said at the time. (The bill passed but was vetoed by President Bush.)
Biden is right that McCain opposed a war spending bill. We find Biden's statement True.
UPDATE: We originally rated Biden's statement Half True because, although McCain had issued a statement opposing the bill, he missed the vote on the bill on April 26, 2007. But after a reader called our attention to this vote, which occurred one month earlier, we changed our ruling to True.
U.S. Senate, Roll Call Vote for H.R. 1591 , March 29, 2007
Library of Congress, H.R. 1591
Office of Sen. John McCain, Statement on Fiscal Year 2007 Supplemental Appropriations Act, March 29, 2007
Office of Sen. John McCain, McCAIN URGES PRESIDENT TO VETO LEGISLATION REQUIRING WITHDRAWAL DEADLINE FOR U.S. TROOPS , April 26, 2007
JohnMcCain.com, Remarks by John McCain to the 87th Annual Convention of the Disabled American Veterans , Aug. 11, 2008
MSNBC, Interview with Sen. Barack Obama by Keith Olbermann, Jan. 10, 2007
THOMAS, S. 574, A bill to express the sense of Congress on Iraq , accessed Aug. 12, 2008
Today Show, NBC News, interview with Sen. Barack Obama, July 18, 2007
E-mail exchange with McCain spokesman Joseph Pounder, Aug. 11 and 12, 2008
Senate.gov, U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes, H.R. 2206 , May 24, 2007
Obama.senate.gov, Obama Votes to Demand Changed Course in Iraq , May 24, 2007
Senate.gov, U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes, H.R. 1591 , April 26, 2007
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