Bush Vetoes War Spending Bill

Tuesday 01 May 2007

Washington - President George W. Bush vetoed legislation on Tuesday that would have required him to begin withdrawing U.S. combat troops from Iraq this year, setting up a new showdown with Democratic leaders over funding the war, the White House said.

Bush's veto, only the second of his presidency, came on the four-year anniversary of a speech he delivered announcing the end of major combat operations in Iraq beneath a "Mission Accomplished" banner.

His veto of a bill that would fund wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with $100 billion was a rejection of attempts by Democrats who control the U.S. Congress to force him into a shift in strategy in the unpopular war.

Since Democrats did not appear to have enough votes to muster a two-thirds majority in Congress to override the veto, compromise talks between them and the White House were expected to take place.

Congressional leaders are expected to meet Bush at the White House on Wednesday.


President Bush Vetoes War-Funding Bill
By William Branigin and Jonathan Weisman
The Washington Post

Tuesday 01 May 2007

President Bush today vetoed a $124 billion emergency war-funding bill that contains a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq, setting up a confrontation with the Democratic-controlled Congress over his Iraq war policy.

Acting on the fourth anniversary of his so-called "Mission Accomplished" speech aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, Bush carried out his veto threat shortly after returning to the White House from a visit to Florida, where he delivered a speech at the U.S. Central Command.

The bill, a supplemental appropriation for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan this year, arrived at the White House around 4 p.m. EDT, and Bush made a statement to the nation at 6:10 p.m. to explain his veto - only the second of his presidency.

Shortly after 3 p.m., House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) formally sent the bill on its way, making a final appeal to Bush to drop his objections and sign it.

"This legislation respects the wishes of the American people to end the Iraq war," Pelosi said in a Capitol Hill ceremony with Reid seated beside her. "I urge the president to sign the Global War on Terror Supplemental so that we can refocus on fighting terrorism."

Reid said Bush has "put our troops in the middle of a civil war" and that "a change of course is needed." Noting that April was the deadliest month for U.S. forces in Iraq so far this year and one of the deadliest in the four-year war, he said the bill "redeploys our troops out of an intractable civil war" and ensures that U.S. forces are "combat ready."

He added, "A veto means denying our troops the resources and the strategy that they need."

Bush had warned congressional Democrats for weeks that he would reject a bill that includes a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and billions of dollars in spending on items unrelated to the war. But the bill passed the Democratic-controlled House and Senate last week, and Democrats said it reflects the desire of most Americans to end an unpopular war.

The White House announced that Bush will meet with congressional leaders from both parties tomorrow afternoon in an effort to resolve differences over the war-funding bill. So far, Bush has given no indication that he intends to compromise on his demand for a "clean bill" with no withdrawal timetable.

In Congress today, meanwhile, Republican leaders adopted a strikingly different tone behind the public partisan jockeying, saying some agreement will have to be reached with Democrats and reached quickly. Senate Minority Whip Trent Lott (R-Miss.) said neither party can go into talks with absolute demands for what can and cannot be in the next bill.

"It's time to stop laying down these guidelines, saying it's got to be this, it's got to be that," Lott said.

He suggested Republicans will have to accept some of the non-military spending that they have been deriding for weeks as "pork." And Bush will have to accept benchmarks for the Iraqi government that are tied to consequences, should they not be achieved. He suggested those consequences could be linked to non-military reconstruction aid, taking up a proposal floated last week by House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.). Blunt reiterated his support for benchmarks, saying any punishment for not meeting them should be a focal point of negotiations in the coming days.

"Some kind of compromise has to be worked out between the administration and the Democrats," said Sen. George V. Voinovich (R-Ohio). "That's how it's done. Everybody holds their nose, and maybe a couple of times vomits, but you get it done."

In a speech today at the U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Fla., Bush made no reference to the bill, but he defended his stewardship of the war on terrorism and asserted that his troop-surge strategy in Iraq is showing signs of success.

Addressing a "coalition conference" attended by about 160 representatives of various countries allied with the United States, Bush said "there is only one effective response" against al-Qaeda and other terrorist enemies: "we must go on the offense, stay on the offense and take the fight to them."

He also listed what he described as a string of intelligence successes by the United States and its allies that have "helped thwart many attacks." And he repeated justifications from previous speeches for invading Iraq in March 2003 and ordering about 30,000 reinforcements into the country earlier this year to quell rampant sectarian violence in Baghdad and insurgent activity in western Iraq.

Pulling back from Baghdad would have "risked turning Iraq into a cauldron of chaos," Bush said. "Our enemy - the enemies of freedom - love chaos. Out of that chaos they could find new safe havens."

While the Baghdad security plan is in its "early" stages, he said, "we are seeing some signs that give us hope." He cited the capture of "a number of key terrorist leaders," the disruption of a car-bomb network and "a decline in sectarian violence in some areas of the capital."

Congressional Democrats, however, say Bush's views are increasingly divorced from reality in Iraq.

"If the president wonders why the American people have lost patience, it is because the news out of Iraq grows worse by the day," said Reid, who has accused Bush of being "in denial" about the war.

Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said in a statement that in the four years since Bush made his speech on the deck of the Abraham Lincoln, "America has lost thousands of young lives and spent hundreds of billions of dollars. Now the president wants more - more troops, more time, more money - the status quo plus."

Saying that Bush squarely bears "the blame for our misadventure in Iraq," Emanuel declared, "The President who thought the war ended four years ago has not earned and will not receive from this Congress another blank check for staying the course in Iraq."

In a news briefing on board Air Force One en route to Florida, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino bristled when asked about Bush's veto of a bill that Democrats are sending him on the fourth anniversary of a speech in which he prematurely declared an end to major combat operations.

"Even though the Democrats won't say so on the record, it is a trumped-up political stunt that is the height of cynicism, and it's very disturbing to think that they possibly held up this money for the troops and the troops' families and the resources they need to try some PR stunt on this day," Perino said.

The speech four years ago "has been widely misconstrued, and I encourage people to go back and read it," she said. "The president did say we had a long and difficult road ahead of us. We're moving from a dictatorship to democracy."

Asked if Bush regrets the "mission accomplished speech," Perino said, "Look, I've never heard him describe it that way, absolutely not. Let me just remind everybody ... the President never said 'mission accomplished.' I realize that the banner said 'mission accomplished.' That was specific to the mission of that ship. They were supposed to be deployed for six months. They were deployed well beyond that. I think they'd gone to both Iraq and Afghanistan. And that's what that banner was referring to."

After arriving on the carrier deck wearing a flight suit and carrying a helmet, Bush stood below a huge banner saying "Mission Accomplished" and addressed the crew. "My fellow Americans, major combat operations in Iraq have ended," he announced. "In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed."