No Solution In Sight As Bush And Lawmakers Discuss Iraq Spending Measure

No Solution In Sight As Bush And Lawmakers Discuss Iraq Spending Measure
April 19th, 2007  
Team Infidel

Topic: No Solution In Sight As Bush And Lawmakers Discuss Iraq Spending Measure

No Solution In Sight As Bush And Lawmakers Discuss Iraq Spending Measure
New York Times
April 19, 2007
By Jeff Zeleny and Jim Rutenberg
WASHINGTON, April 18 — After weeks of acrimonious sparring over financing the next phase of the war, President Bush and Congressional leaders softened their tone on Wednesday but failed to resolve their differences over a timeline for removing most American combat troops from Iraq next year.
Mr. Bush met with a bipartisan group of lawmakers in the White House for nearly an hour, the first face-to-face discussion since the House and Senate passed emergency Iraq spending bills last month with provisions to end the war. Democrats said they would send the president legislation by the end of next week, despite his pledge to veto it.
“We believe he must search his soul, his conscience, and find out what is the right thing for the American people,” Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic majority leader, told reporters after the meeting. “I believe signing this bill will do that.”
The White House, though, said Mr. Bush had no intention of signing any legislation that included a call for a troop withdrawal. Democrats do not have enough support to override a veto, so the debate over financing the troops remains at an impasse.
Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, said, “The president, obviously, as you already know, is not going to accept language that specifies a date for surrender or language that micromanages the efforts of our military in Iraq.”
The discussions took place on one of the deadliest days of the year in Baghdad, where at least 171 people were killed in bombings. Democrats said the violence underscored the urgency of finding a new direction in Iraq, one that did not place American troops in the middle of a civil war.
At the beginning of the meeting, Mr. Bush declared, “People have strong opinions around the table and I’m looking forward to listening to them.” And for the next hour, according to participants and aides in the room, a frank conversation unfolded between the president and the 10 legislative leaders seated around the table in the Cabinet Room.
A White House official who attended the meeting, and spoke on condition of anonymity in order to describe details, said Mr. Bush’s first question to the Democratic leaders was, “When can you get me a bill?”
And, this official said, Mr. Bush told the Democrats that he hoped to ultimately follow several of the guidelines set forth last year in a report by the Iraq Study Group, which called for an eventual draw-down of American troops. According to the official, Mr. Bush noted that the Study Group, whose co-chairman was his father’s former political aide, James A. Baker III, had suggested that a temporary troop increase could be a necessary step on the way to an eventual withdrawal.
For weeks, White House officials have said they are eager for Democrats to send a bill to the president that he will veto, so they can begin negotiating a financing measure both sides can agree on. But first, Democrats must reconcile differences between the House and Senate versions of the legislation, which include different timetables for troops to be removed from Iraq.
The House passed a bill calling for troops to be withdrawn no later than Sept. 1, 2008, or earlier if the Iraqi government does not meet a series of benchmarks. The Senate measure would begin a gradual redeployment of troops in four months, but set a goal for troops to be removed by March 31, 2008.
According to several participants at the meeting, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi offered to accept the Senate timelines. But Mr. Bush and Republican leaders said they would not support any deadlines.
As she left the White House, Ms. Pelosi called the session a “productive meeting.”
“We came here in a spirit of hope,” she said, “recognizing that this is an historic opportunity for the executive branch, for the president and the Congress to work together to wind down this war and to ensure the security of our country and the stability of the region.”
During the meeting, Mr. Bush was the only administration official who spoke, though he was accompanied by Vice President Dick Cheney, the White House chief of staff, Joshua B. Bolten, the national security adviser, Stephen J. Hadley, and others.
Members of the group, which included four senators and six representatives, all spoke, including Mr. Reid, who compared the Iraq war to the Vietnam War and suggested to Mr. Bush that he should not continue with the war simply to protect his legacy. The president was visibly angered by the comment, according to aides, but he did not respond directly.
The session was the beginning of a fresh round of negotiating between the Democratic-led Congress and the White House. While neither Democrats nor Republicans seemed willing to compromise their main objectives, both sides are also keenly aware that in the coming weeks they must authorize financing for the troops in Iraq.
Next week, as the House and Senate are scheduled to vote on the compromise Iraq legislation, Gen. David H. Petraeus, the senior commander in Iraq, is scheduled to come to Washington to press the administration’s case. Initially, some Democrats rejected the offer to meet with General Petraeus, but said they changed their minds to avoid being cast as unwilling to compromise.
Still, despite a fresh air of civility, it remained an open question whether anything was accomplished on Wednesday. When asked whether anything had changed as a result of the meeting, Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, the Republican leader, replied, “No.”

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