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US Congress, Bush Continue Standoff Over Spending


An end-of-year battle continues between majority Democrats in Congress and President Bush over government spending and money for military operations in Iraq. VOA's Dan Robinson reports from Capitol Hill.

In his news conference Tuesday, President Bush again attempted to turn up the heat on Democrats, pointing to areas of unfinished business including war funding, electronic intelligence gathering, and government spending.

He began with his latest demand that Democratic leaders approve billions of dollars needed by the military for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. "Our troops are waiting on Congress to fund them in their operations overseas. Nearly 10 months ago I submitted a detailed funding request. Congress has not acted. Our men and women [in the military] should not have to wait any longer," he said.

Waiting is exactly the strategy Democrats, at least those in the House, have been pursuing for some time, vowing they will approve no new funds without a major change in the president's Iraq policy, including a timetable for a U.S. troop withdrawal.

After a House-passed bill to provide less than a quarter of the $196 billion the president requested for military operations failed in the Senate amid Republican opposition, House speaker Nancy Pelosi vowed not to bring another war funding measure to the floor this year.

House Democratic appropriations chairman David Obey issued a statement Tuesday accusing the president of trying to mislead Americans on the impasse over war funding and government spending, saying money for the military is being stopped only by the president's refusal to compromise.

While not responding directly to a reporter asking if Democrats would stand by Pelosi's pledge, Democratic caucus chairman Congressman Rahm Emanuel threw the ball back in the president's court.

"We stand ready to cooperate and compromise, rather than policy of complaining and confrontation and I think that the president of the United States today, it was his 19th press conference where he was pointing fingers at Congress, and I think if he did a little more cooperation, a little more compromise, and a lot less confrontation and a lot less complaining you will see a lot more things get done for the American people," he said.

On government spending, President Bush said again he will veto a likely massive measure being developed that combines 11 appropriations bills Congress has not been able to complete.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell insists that any such omnibus spending bill must include funding for war operations. "Any passage of an omnibus must include an adequate fund for the troops to carry over into probably March of next year, so those two issues will be inextricably intertwined," he said.

Senate majority leader Harry Reid says he is willing to consider any proposal from McConnell.

But as of Tuesday Reid said he had heard nothing directly from the White House about any compromise proposal dealing with government spending. "I want to work something out but I cannot do it out of thin air. Someone has to talk to me from the White House, someone representing people in the White House have to talk to me, and I have heard nothing from anyone, even though I have personally reached out to them," he said.

Congress must act before December 14 when a temporary resolution keeping government operations going at 2007 fiscal year levels expires, or be forced to continue stopgap funding into 2008.

Democrats insist that the U.S. military can sustain operations in Iraq and Afghanistan until next March. Republicans accuse Democrats of inflicting strain on U.S. troops and the Pentagon by delaying action.