House fails to override Defense bill veto
Congressional leaders and Bush meet to jump-start negotiations on a new spending bill.
The House on Wednesday failed to override President Bush's veto of a $124 billion emergency supplemental spending bill, ending for now Democratic attempts to set a timetable for pulling U.S. troops from Iraq and setting the stage for lawmakers and the president to push for a new funding measure.
The vote was 222-203, far short of the required two-thirds of members voting. Congressional leaders and Bush were meeting at the White House Wednesday afternoon to try to jump-start negotiations on a new spending bill.
Despite the setback, anti-war Democrats said they would try again to push legislation to curtail the U.S. involvement in Iraq, perhaps as part of the defense authorization debate. While Bush and lawmakers continued to blame each other for the delay in sending funds to troops, both sides seemed willing to move ahead quickly with a compromise.
"My hope is we will complete consideration of a bill and send it down to the president before Memorial Day," said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md. The House and Senate are scheduled to leave town May 25 for that recess.
The size and scope of the new funding bill remained in flux as the House debated and voted to try to overturn just the second veto of Bush's presidency. Some Republicans have said Bush will probably have to accept non-war spending in the next supplemental measure, along with performance benchmarks for the Iraqi government.
At the White House Wednesday, Press Secretary Tony Snow declined to say whether Bush would accept such sanctions, but suggested setting punishments for failing to reach goals might undermine the Iraqi government.
"You can treat them as the wayward party you want to punish or you can treat them as the partner you want to assist," Snow said.
Also unclear is the period to be covered by the bill. Some Republicans say anything less than a measure providing funding for the rest of the fiscal year would be unacceptable.
Some Democrats, on the other hand, want only enough money for the next 60 days. Hoyer has said he opposed a 60-day funding extension, but it continues to get support from some corners of the Democratic Caucus, so he said it could not be taken off the table.
While leaders on both sides of the aisle say bipartisan talks must begin, Republican leaders have been reluctant to detail potential options. House Minority Whip Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and House Republican Conference Chairman Adam Putnam of Florida have said they would back some sort of performance benchmarks for the Iraqi government tied to economic or reconstruction aid.
Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, has backed a version of nonbinding benchmarks in the past. Republican leaders said before any discussions about benchmarks or other options can begin, there must be decision about what will not be in the bill.
"Those conversations and those negotiations ought to be between the White House and Republicans and Democrats here on the Hill," Boehner said. "We don't need to have those negotiations here in the press gallery."
Keith Koffler contributed to this report.