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Bush Calls Democratic Leadership in Congress 'Irresponsible'


President Bush says he will veto emergency spending for wars in Afghanistan and Iraq because opposition legislators have attached timetables for a troop withdrawal from Iraq. VOA White House correspondent Scott Stearns reports, opposition leaders say it is time Iraqi leaders take greater responsibility for their own security.

President Bush says Congressional Democrats are pushing legislation that would undercut U.S. troops in Iraq just as he says reinforcements in Baghdad are beginning to reduce sectarian violence.

"I know we have our differences over the best course in Iraq," he said. "These differences should not prevent us from getting our troops the funding they need without withdrawal and without giving our commanders flexibility."

President Bush says the clock is ticking for U.S. troops in the field as the Defense Department will transfer $1.6 billion from other accounts to make up the shortfall. An independent government report last month said the Army has enough money to fund military operations in Iraq through July.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says it is not about the money. He says Democrats are holding the president to account for a war that public-opinion polls show a majority of Americans now believe was a mistake.

"Let me be clear," he said. "Democrats are committed to giving our troops the funds they need. The supplemental appropriation bill that we are trying to send to President Bush will provide every dollar our commanders have requested."

President Bush says he will veto any spending bills that include a timetable for withdrawal because that would embolden the enemy.

Close votes in both the House and Senate make it highly unlikely that Democrats could find the two-thirds majority to over-ride that veto.

In a speech to a local chapter of America's largest veterans' association, President Bush said it is irresponsible for Democrats to delay funding for U.S. troops at war.

"Democratic leaders in Congress are bent on using a bill that funds our troops to make a political statement about the war," he said. "They need to do it quickly, and get it to my desk so I can veto it. And then Congress can get down to the business of funding our troops without strings and without further delay."

Reid says Democrats want Iraqi authorities to take greater responsibility for their own security and to force the president to hold them to benchmarks for their performance.

"American troops are putting their lives at risk every single day, but Iraqi leaders are not willing to take the political risk of governing their own country," he said. "That must change. That is what Congress is demanding. That is what the American people by a large majority demand. And the president should be leading us in that direction, not threatening to veto funding for our troops unless we rubber-stamp his flawed plan."

The president invited Congressional leaders from both parties to come to the White House next week to discuss the supplemental funding. Spokeswoman Dana Perino says that is not a negotiation, but a chance for Democrats to explain how they are going to get the president a bill he can sign.

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