Struggle continues on Iraq war bill
Democrats press for an exit timetable for troops, but they oppose a GOP plan to set goals for the Iraqis to meet.
WASHINGTON - President Bush has a "tin ear" when it comes to Iraq, and he should compromise with majority Democrats on a war-spending bill with a timetable for U.S. troops to leave, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) said yesterday.
With hopes of getting a new bill to Bush before the Memorial Day weekend, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) said yesterday that Republicans "don't want a retreat date in there, a surrender date."
The White House and Congress failed to come up with a deal last week after exchanging offers, and Bush's chief of staff said after a Capitol Hill meeting Friday that "timelines for withdrawal are just not the right way to go."
McConnell spoke of the need for legislation that would pass both the House and the Senate, where Democrats hold a slimmer edge. He mentioned a proposal advanced by Sen. John Warner of Virginia and other Republicans that would set standards for the Iraqi government to meet and condition reconstruction funds on progress toward achieving the goals.
"It's what can pass the Senate," McConnell said on ABC's This Week.
To Pelosi, however, "This is too little, too late. This would have been an appropriate measure maybe three or four years ago. But the accountability is very meager in the bill," she said on ABC.
The public wants accountability, Pelosi said, and "that is where the president refuses to listen. We've worked in a bipartisan way with the president on trade, on immigration, on our innovation agenda, on many issues. But when it comes to the war in Iraq, the president has a tin ear. He just cannot hear, except that which he wants to hear on it."
Asked whether Congress would send the White House another spending bill with a timeline, she said: "We're working on what we do now."
"One thing is for sure: By the time we leave here to honor our war veterans and those who have given their lives for our country on Memorial Day weekend, we will have legislation to fund the troops," Pelosi said.
At issue is $95 billion the president says is needed to cover the costs of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan through September. The Democratic-controlled Congress sent Bush a bill May 1 that would have paid for the war, but it also would have mandated that troops start coming home by Oct. 1. Bush vetoed the measure that same day.
"I do have the votes to uphold the veto. We need to stay away from a surrender date," McConnell said.
"Look, we need to have a compromise if we want to get the job done before Memorial Day," he continued. "We know how to get there. It's to take out the surrender date. Any kind of reasonable benchmarks on the Iraqi government, I think are going to have broad bipartisan support. That's clearly the way to get there."
Pelosi said: "I believe we have an obligation to the American people to try to find common ground. But if the president says, 'No accountability; I want a blank check with a war without end,' we'll have to oppose that."