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White House, Congress Negotiate New War Funds

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President Bush and congressional Democrats are negotiating new funding for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq after the president vetoed a measure earlier this week because it included a timetable for a troop withdrawal from Iraq. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

President Bush says he is confident political leaders can agree on a war spending bill as he says Democrats have assured him they are committed to funding the troops.

Mr. Bush vetoed $124 billion worth of spending this past Tuesday because it would have forced him to start withdrawing troops from Iraq by October. In his weekly radio address, he said the time for politics is over.

"I recognize that many Democratic leaders saw this bill as an opportunity to make a statement about their opposition to the war. In a democracy, we should debate our differences openly and honestly. But now it is time to give our troops the resources they are waiting for," he said.

Without the two-thirds majority needed to over-ride the president's veto, Democrats began negotiating a new spending bill with White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten.

In the Democratic radio address, New York Senator Charles Schumer said the president's veto will not deter opposition legislators from supporting the troops while pushing to change the mission in Iraq.

"We know how strongly the president feels that he is right. But if he looked at the facts on the ground, he would have to come to the conclusion that most Americans have: We need a change in direction," he said.

President Bush says he has changed direction in Iraq by sending more troops to better secure Baghdad. As that new strategy is still in its early stages, Mr. Bush says Congress needs to give it a chance to work.

He rejects a timetable for a troop withdrawal because he says that would embolden the enemy and make America appear weak.

"I know that Republicans and Democrats will not agree on every issue in this war," he said. "But the consequences of failure in Iraq are clear. If we were to leave Iraq before the government can defend itself, there would be a security vacuum in the country. Extremists from all factions could compete to fill that vacuum, causing sectarian killing to multiply on a horrific scale."

Senator Schumer says it is not the job of U.S. troops to police a civil war between Sunni and Shi'ite. He says Democrats want to focus more on training Iraqi forces and conducting counter-terrorism operations against al-Qaida camps that might pose a threat to America.

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