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Bush Says US Troops in Iraq Will Suffer in Funding Dispute with Congress

President Bush says U.S. troops will suffer if Congress fails to quickly pass a war funding bill. Both houses of Congress have approved measures that set a deadline to pull troops out of Iraq. The president Tuesday renewed a threat to veto a bill with that sort of deadline. VOA's Jim Fry reports.

President Bush came out into the White House Rose Garden to make a point about war funding. He said it has been 57 days since he asked Congress for an emergency funding bill. The president chastised lawmakers. "In time of war, it is irresponsible for the Democrat leadership in Congress -- Democratic leadership in Congress -- to delay for months on end while our troops in combat are waiting for the funds," he said.

Last week, the Senate approved a version of the funding bill that is slightly different from one passed by the House.

The House's top Democrat, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, reacted strongly last to a presidential veto threat. "Just to say to him: Calm down with the threats. There is a new Congress in town," said Pelosi.

The president said the troops in Afghanistan and Iraq will suffer if Congress does not finalize the spending bill soon. By mid-April, he said, the Pentagon will have to cut back on equipment repair. By mid-May, he said, training of active duty troops would be curtailed.

The president said lawmakers went on vacation without finishing the job. "That is unacceptable to me," he said, "and I believe it is unacceptable to the American people."

But in the last two years, the president signed emergency funding for the wars even later in the debate. Two years ago, it was past mid-May. Last year, it was in the middle of June.

Retired Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman, General Richard Myers said such delay does cause problems, but he added, "These are not new problems. There's always an issue of timing and - as I recall - we have had those issues in the past."

Myers said the president's decision to reinforce U.S. troops in Baghdad shows signs of reducing the violence. "Hopefully we can find a mechanism other than a date certain -- understanding that what people want to do with a date certain is what we all want to do -- and that is to apply leverage to the Iraqi government to take more responsibility," he said.

If the president vetoes a funding measure that has a withdrawal deadline, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Monday (April 2) that he would propose cutting off funding for the Iraq war.

"Whatever option they (Congress) choose, I would hope they get home, get a bill and get it to my desk," said President Bush. "And if it has artificial timetables of withdrawal, if it cuts off funding for troops or if it tells our generals how to run a war, I will veto it."

The full Congress will not return to work until the middle of April and cannot send the war funding measure to the president before then.