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US Lawmakers Discussing Post-Veto Strategies on Iraq Funding

U.S. lawmakers are already consulting on next steps after President Bush's expected veto next week of Iraq-Afghanistan war funding legislation. VOA's Dan Robinson reports from Capitol Hill, Democrats and Republicans spoke after the Senate followed the House in approving the war funding conference report endorsing a goal of withdrawing most U.S. combat forces by April 2008.

With the White House repeating the president's intention to veto the bill, the wheels are turning in the House and Senate looking ahead to the next phase of the standoff between Congress and President Bush over Iraq.

After the Senate vote, minority leader Mitch McConnell told reporters that preliminary discussions had already begun.

Saying he had also spoken with the president, McConnell re-stated the Republican position that any new legislation should not contain a timetable for withdrawing U.S. forces:

"What we need to do is get the money, all of the money, down to the troops, without a withdrawal date, without the pork [extra spending items], as rapidly as possible, and those discussions will commence very soon and we hope to be able to get a quick result," said Mitch McConnell.

In a news conference, Senate majority leader Harry Reid joined House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in urging the president to reconsider:

REID: "The president has to work with us. He has refused to do that and so I feel very comfortable that we have moved this legislation forward in keeping with what the American people want."

PELOSI: "I would hope that the president would reconsider and sign this bill. This is a bill that has the president's own benchmarks in it, for progress, it has the Department of Defense's own principles for [military] readiness."

House minority leader John Boehner said Republicans are prepared, after the president's veto, to sit down with Democrats, but repeated his position on a troop withdrawal timeline.

"What we are not going to have are artificial deadlines, we are not going to have shackles on the generals on the ground, in a bill," said John Boehner. "The president is not going to sign such a bill. And I think that you will see conservatives in the Democratic party and most Republicans are willing to sit down and to work our way through this."

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino described the bill headed to the president desk as mission defeated.

"I just spoke to the president in the Oval Office, and as he said he would for weeks, the president would veto this legislation, and he looks forward to craft a bill that he could sign," said Dana Perino.

Democrats are considering their options, possibly including one that would send the president a new bill containing only a two-month funding provision.

But when it comes to removing withdrawal language, Pelosi and other Democratic leaders may again face opposition from left wing members had earlier been pressured to go along with stating only a goal of removing most combat troops by April of next year.

With the president, and the Pentagon, warning of the impact on troops of a lengthy funding standoff, or scuffle as Senator Reid put it Thursday, both parties in Congress, as well as the president, will be under pressure to break the deadlock.