Bush demands vote on Defense funding
President Bush Monday demanded that Congress pass an Iraq war funding bill that he can support, saying Congress should remain in session until the legislation is finished.
Bush put the Iraq funding supplemental at the top of what he described as "nearly a year's worth of unfinished business" that Congress must address this month. Bush opposes legislation backed by Democratic leaders that would offer a schedule for withdrawals of U.S. troops. Pointing to military progress on the ground, Bush said that this month "more of our troops will return home as a result of the success we're seeing in Iraq."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., accused Bush of failing to negotiate with Democrats. "We could have already given our troops what they need in Iraq and funded our critical needs at home if not for the stubborn refusal of President Bush and his Republican enablers to work with us," Reid said in a statement. "President Bush fails to grasp that the way to get things done for the American people is by sitting down to negotiate our differences, not by posturing from the Rose Garden."
Later, in a news conference, Reid repeated that the blame for little getting done this year belonged with the president.
"We've been willing to work with him, and he has for seven years been unalterably opposed to anything other than something he wants," Reid said. "No negotiations, no change of course, no cooperation whatsoever."
Bush listed steps the Pentagon will have to take if the supplemental is not soon passed, including sending layoff notices to about 100,000 civilian employees.
"Unless Congress acts," Bush said, the Army will run out of operations and maintenance money in February and the Marine Corps will deplete those funds in March. Reid Monday said he expects to hold another vote on Iraq war funding this month.
During a news conference this afternoon, Reid would not give details on any bill language he is considering, but said it could be "something a little bit different" from a $50 billion bridge fund that failed to pass the Senate last month. Reid also expressed some optimism that he has been building support in the Senate, saying that there have been "some changes on both sides."
In November, Senate Democrats fell seven votes short of the 60 needed to end debate and proceed to a vote on the bridge fund, which would tie the money to a withdrawal timeline and other conditions.
Monday, Reid said that bill had only "minimum strings attached." The $50 billion bridge fund, which passed the House on a 218-203 vote, is a down payment on Bush's request for $196.4 billion in emergency war-related and diplomatic spending this year.
Bush called on Congress to pass legislation updating the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. He demanded Democrats withdraw objections to language that would provide legal immunity to telecommunications companies that participated in the administration's eavesdropping program. He said Congress must also approve a patch to check the reach of the alternative minimum tax and approve the outstanding appropriations bills.
Bush repeated his threat to veto bills that exceeded his spending limits. He also warned Congress not to resort to an omnibus bill, which he called "one monster piece of legislation, which [Democrats] will load up with billions of dollars in earmarks and wasteful spending."