WASHINGTON – President Bush and Democratic leaders of Congress failed Wednesday to reconcile key differences over a disputed war-funding bill.
Both sides held their ground, with Bush ready to veto any measure that calls for U.S. troops to withdraw from Iraq.
The president met with a bipartisan group of lawmakers in the Cabinet Room for about an hour. Democrats said afterward they would send the president legislation soon and held hopes that Bush would sign it. But the White House said that would not happen.
“It appears that they are determined to send a bill to the president that he won’t accept,” said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino. “They fundamentally disagree.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (news, bio, voting record), D-Nev., tried to pressure Bush to sign the legislation. “We believe he must search his soul, his conscience and find out what is the right thing for the American people,” Reid said, standing outside the White House. “I believe signing this bill will do that.”
“It gives the troops more than he’s asked for and leaves the troops there for considerable periods of time with some goals and benchmarks that have been called for by the American people, the Iraq Study Group and many, many military,” Reid said.
Republicans followed Democrats to the microphones to say there was no hope Bush would sign a bill resembling the Democrats’ legislation.
Republicans began calling any troop withdrawal timeline a “surrender date.”
House Minority Leader John Boehner (news, bio, voting record), R-Ohio, asked if anything had changed as a result of the meeting, replied: “No.”
“Except that people were polite, people were open, they were honest,” Boehner said. “And there’s a willingness to try to get through this first phase.” He was referring to Democrats’ sending Bush a bill that he will veto.
“The real issue … is whether, in fact, we’re going to agree to a surrender date and that’s not going to happen,” Boehner said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (news, bio, voting record), D-Calif., said, “We came here in a spirit of hope, recognizing that this is a historic opportunity for the executive branch, the president and the Congress to work together to wind down this war, and ensure the security of our country and the stability of the region.