WASHINGTON - The Senate yesterday sent President Bush a $124 billion war-spending measure he has promised to veto, forcing Democrats to confront the question of what to do after the president acts.
Lawmakers and senior Democratic aides in the House and Senate acknowledge that there is no consensus among the party's leadership on how to respond legislatively to the veto, with members of the House and Senate advocating competing options and some outside anti-war groups urging Democrats to hold firm.
"It gives new meaning to the notion of a fluid process," said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., after the Senate voted 51-46 over GOP objections to approve the emergency war measure.
The White House reaction was swift. "Eighty days after President Bush submitted his troop-funding bill, the Senate has now joined the House in passing defeatist legislation that insists on a date for surrender, micromanages our commanders and generals in combat zones from 6,000 miles away and adds billions of dollars in unrelated spending to the fighting on the ground," said Dana Perino, the administration spokeswoman.
With the veto coming, some Democrats argue that the bill should be stripped of the timelines and sent back with the benchmarks and troop readiness rules intact. Others contend that Congress has made its statement and should now give Bush what he has demanded.
Another wing, including House Democrats who are influential on military policy, prefers providing money for the troops for a few months while keeping pressure on the White House through other Pentagon-related legislation. Still others want to turn the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group into law.
Each alternative carries its own risk because Democratic leaders might not have the votes to pass an alternate bill. That's because a substantial bloc of Democrats opposes providing more money for the war without some demand for a withdrawal. *