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White House Presses Congress on Iraq Funding

The Bush administration is accusing the opposition-led U.S. Congress of abdicating its responsibility to fund ongoing war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan and attempting to legislate failure on the battlefield. VOA's Michael Bowman reports from the White House, where administration officials remain adamant that Mr. Bush will veto any military spending bill that sets a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq.

Battle lines between the executive and legislative branches of government are hardening over wartime spending in Iraq. White House spokeswoman Dana Perino blasted the Democratically controlled Congress for adjourning for a weeklong recess without generating a bill to fund U.S. troops that President Bush can sign.

"It appears they are still content to work on a bill that does not have serious plans to fund troops or make Iraq, America and the world more secure, but rather attempts at forcing us into giving up in Iraq without regard to the consequences of failure," said Dana Perino.

America's two legislative chambers have passed separate emergency spending bills, neither of which is palatable to President Bush. The House bill sets a September, 2008 deadline for withdrawing U.S. combat troops from Iraq, while a Senate version urges a withdrawal by next March. A unified version of the two bills would have to be worked out before it can be sent to the president.

Perino noted that neither chamber is believed to have enough votes to override a presidential veto. She said that if Democrats want to send a message of displeasure over the course of events in Iraq, they have already done so. Now, she said, it is time for Congress to craft a wartime spending bill that President Bush can sign.

But Democrats are giving no indication of backing down and are showing little appetite for compromise. Far from agreeing to remove troop withdrawal language from the legislation, as the White House is demanding, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has voiced support for an even tougher proposal to actually cut off most war spending in Iraq within a year.

That development had White House spokeswoman Perino expressing dismay.

"There is just these shifting sands when it comes to the Democrats and their decisions," she said. "It is almost shifting so fast it is like a sandstorm."

Democrats maintain that the status quo is not working in Iraq, and positive change will not occur so long as the United States maintains an open-ended military commitment in Iraq. In pushing for an eventual withdrawal of U.S. troops, Democrats say their intent is to force Iraq's government to come to terms with the country's warring factions and forge a political solution to the civil strife.

President Bush maintains that establishing a timetable for a troop pullout will embolden terrorists and insurgents, placing Iraq and the world at large in greater danger.

The Pentagon says, to continue operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, it needs a new infusion of funds by mid-April.