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Democrats, White House Deadlocked Over US Government Funding

Majority Democrats in Congress and the White House are deadlocked over funding for the federal government. VOA's Dan Robinson reports from Capitol Hill, where Democratic and Republican leaders continue negotiations, which also include discussion of funding for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As they put together a massive $500 billion measure comprising 11 separate unfinished government appropriations bills, Democrats blame President Bush and his advisers, and congressional Republicans for the impasse.

In remarks to reporters, Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid was critical of Mr. Bush's uncompromising attitude. "President Bush reminds me of somebody who was a lawyer, who would never negotiate anything, a nice guy, pleasant to visit with, but he was impossible to deal with on any case that he had. That is what we have with President Bush. He is impossible, and he has been for seven years, to deal with," he said.

Reid spoke as lawmakers reacted to a proposal by House appropriations chairman Congressman David Obey to resolve the deadlock.

To move closer to President Bush's limit for so-called discretionary spending, the portion of the federal budget approved by Congress each year, a figure the president has set at $933 billion, Obey suggested eliminating "earmarks" or spending for the lawmakers' special projects.

Democrats, who earlier dropped language to require a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq, would also include $31 billion for military operations in Afghanistan, although none for Iraq.

House minority leader John Boehner and other Republicans accused Democrats of mishandling the appropriations process. "We are in agreement with the president that the size of the pie for discretionary domestic spending is $933 billion and so there is really no reason for us to move away from that number. That is the number, and to try to blackmail the president for some $11 billion in extra spending on the backs of the troops and the veterans I think is not sustainable on their part," he said.

Congress has approved and the president has signed a $459 billion measure for the Pentagon, but not specifically funding war operations. President Bush asked for a separate emergency supplemental of $196 billion for that.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said if Democrats went ahead with their plan, he would submit an amendment to provide $70 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan while meeting the president's government and domestic spending limit:

"It seems to me that is a way to end this session in a fiscally responsible way that also provides the funding necessary to continue the [military] surge [in Iraq] which has shown remarkable signs of success," he said.

Lawmakers are up against a wall. The government has been operating on temporary continuing resolutions since October 1, and Congress faces another deadline at the end of this week.