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Bush, Democrats Headed Toward Confrontation on Iraq Legislation


Majority Democrats and President Bush still appear headed on a collision course over legislation to fund the war in Iraq. From Capitol Hill, VOA's Dan Robinson reports Democratic leaders in the House and Senate believe they have gained momentum from a Senate vote Tuesday to retain language on a troop withdrawal by next year, even though the president again accused Democrats of harming U.S. troops.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says Tuesday's Senate vote rejecting a Republican amendment to remove withdrawal language from the Senate measure strengthens the hand of those trying to bring U.S. troops home.

She suggests the president does not appear to be listening to public opinion when he threatens to veto a Democratic-crafted bill to fund Iraq and Afghanistan military operations.

"Both Houses have spoken very clearly that the public has lost faith in the conduct of this war and the president's conduct of it, and that they want accountability, no more blank checks, no more open-ended commitment to a war without end," she said.

In addition to withdrawal timelines, the House and Senate bills contain billions of dollars requested by the president for military operations in Iraq as well as Afghanistan.

Senate legislation states that a U.S. troop pullout must begin within 120 days of an affirmative vote in that chamber, with a goal of redeploying troops out of Iraq by March 31, 2008.

This is in contrast to the House bill, which contains a binding call for withdrawal no later than the end of August of next year.

Pelosi predicts that timetable language will be preserved in a final spending bill after House and Senate negotiators meet to resolve differences between their separate versions.

In his latest remarks Wednesday on the issue, President Bush again threatened a veto, asserting that Democrats are jeopardizing the welfare of U.S. forces in the field.

"The clock is ticking for our troops in the field," he said. "Funding for our forces in Iraq will begin to run out in mid-April. Members of Congress need to stop making political statements, and start providing vital funds for our troops."

Joining Congresswoman Pelosi later, Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said the president's statements make it obvious "that [the president] doesn't want anything other than confrontation."

Still, Reid says Democrats remain ready for discussions with the president on the legislation.

"We stand ready, willing and able to discuss with him what is in our bills," he noted. "And we have written him a letter, signed by the speaker of the House of Representatives and majority leader in the Senate, saying Mr. President, we have done what we have done, we feel extremely comfortable, because we are speaking for the American people and you would also understand what the American people are saying."

Senator Reid says Democrats would like to have the president's input before a final measure emerges from Congress after a House-Senate conference to reconcile differences in the respective bills.

Most Republicans in Congress support the president in opposing any timetable, saying it would only give insurgents and al-Qaida forces in Iraq a chance to prepare in advance.

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