Bush to Congress: Go ahead, make my veto

A defiant President George W. Bush said Friday he will veto any and all Iraq funding bills that include a timetable for withdrawal.

Bush knows he holds the cards on the issue because the slim Democratic majority in Congress does not have the votes to override a veto even though polls show an overwhelming majority of Americans want our troops out of Iraq.

Reports The Associated Press:

Speaking a day after the Democratic-controlled Congress approved legislation that requires that a troop drawdown begin by Oct. 1, Bush said — as he has before — he will veto it because of that demand. He invited congressional leaders to come to the White House to discuss a new piece of legislation that would not include a timetable, and expressed hope a deal could be reached.

But he made clear that if Democrats insist on including timetables again, he will not hesitate to bring out his veto pen.

“If they want to try again that which I’ve said is unacceptable, of course I won’t accept it,” the president said during a news conference here with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. “I hope it won’t come to that.”

Passage of the Iraq spending legislation in both houses was not by big enough margins to override a presidential veto. So lawmakers and the White House immediately began talking about a follow-up bill.

Democratic leaders said they hoped to have one ready by June 1. Several Democratic officials have said the next measure likely will jettison the withdrawal timetable, but may include consequences if the Iraqi government does not meet certain benchmarks, such as expanding democratic participation and allocating oil resources.

Bush has set benchmarks for the Iraqi government, but has steadfastly opposed attaching any timeframe to them or requiring any actions if they are not met.

Senate leaders said Friday that the bill approved Thursday should go to Bush early next week. The White House has not said whether Bush plans a quiet veto or a public ceremony. Spokeswoman Dana Perino said it was unlikely that Bush would use a Tuesday trip to the Tampa, Fla.-based headquarters of Central Command, which oversees military operations in the Middle East, including Iraq, for the veto.

“I invited the leaders of the House and the Senate to come down soon after my veto so we can discuss a way forward,” the president said. “I’m optimistic we can get a bill, a good bill and a bill that satisfies all our objectives.”