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President Bush vetoed legislation to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq Tuesday night in a historic showdown with Congress over whether the unpopular and costly war should end or escalate.
In only the second veto of his presidency, Bush rejected legislation pushed by Democratic leaders that would require the first U.S. combat troops to be withdrawn from Iraq by Oct. 1 with a goal of a complete pullout six months later.
“This is a prescription for chaos and confusion and we must not impose it on our troops,” Bush said in a nationally broadcast statement from the White House. He said the bill would “mandate a rigid and artificial deadline” for troop pullouts, and “it makes no sense to tell the enemy when you plan to start withdrawing.”
Democrats accused Bush of ignoring American’s desire to stop the war, which has claimed the lives of more than 3,350 members of the military.
“The president wants a blank check,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., moments after Bush’s appearance. “The Congress is not going to give it to him.” She said Congress would work with him to find common ground but added that there was “great distance” between them on Iraq.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Bush has an obligation to explain his plan for responsibly ending the war.
“If the president thinks by vetoing this bill, he’ll stop us from working to change the direction of the war in Iraq, he is mistaken,” Reid said.
Lacking the votes to override the president, Democratic leaders quietly considered what might be included or kept out of their next version of the $124 billion spending bill. Bush will meet with congressional leaders â€” Democrats and Republicans alike â€” on Wednesday to discuss a new bill.
Bush said Democrats had made a political statement by passing anti-war legislation. “They’ve sent their message, and now it’s time to put politics behind us and support our troops with the funds,” the president said.
He said the need to act is urgent because without a war-funding bill, the armed forces will have to consider cutting back on buying or repairing equipment.
“Our troops and their families deserve better, and their elected leaders can do better,” Bush said.
“Whatever our differences, surely we can agree that our troops are worthy of this funding and that we have a responsibility to get it to them without further delay,” the president said.
Copyright Â© 2007 The Associated Press