House Democrats pushed through a $50 billion bill for the Iraq war Wednesday that would require President Bush to start bringing troops...

WASHINGTON — House Democrats pushed through a $50 billion bill for the Iraq war Wednesday that would require President Bush to start bringing troops home in coming weeks with a goal of ending combat by December 2008.

The legislation, passed 218-203, was largely a symbolic jab at Bush, who has begun reducing force levels but opposes a congressionally mandated timetable on the war. And while the measure was unlikely to pass in the Senate — let alone overcome a presidential veto — Democrats said they wanted voters to know they weren’t giving up.

The White House pledged to veto the bill.

The bill represents about a quarter of the $196 billion Bush requested for combat operations in the 2008 budget year, which began Oct 1.

It would compel an unspecified number of troops to leave Iraq within 30 days, a requirement Bush is on track to meet as he begins in coming weeks to reverse the 30,000-troop buildup he ordered earlier this year. It also sets a goal of ending combat by Dec. 15, 2008.

The measure also would effectively bar the CIA from using harsh interrogation techniques.

In the Washington delegation, Rep. Brian Baird broke ranks with his fellow Democrats, joining the Republicans in opposing the measure; the other Democrats voted for it.

Golf’s role probed in Alaska politics

The Justice Department is investigating whether an Alaska oil contractor used golf tournaments to funnel cash to Rep. Don Young, people close to the corruption investigation said.

The contractor, Rick Smith, told investigators that Young personally received cash at the events. Once an important ally who helped raise tens of thousands of dollars for Young’s election committee, Smith has become a key government informant.

Smith allowed FBI agents to record his telephone calls with the 18-term Republican congressman in a corruption sting. The former VECO vice president has pleaded guilty to bribing state lawmakers to support oil-friendly legislation. In September, Colorado-based CH2M Hill, bought VECO for more than $400 million.

The case has spread from Alaska to Capitol Hill, where Young and Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens are under scrutiny. Young and Stevens are influential figures in setting U.S. energy policy.

Seattle Times news services