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Congressional Democrats and President Bush's top aides will enter another round of high-stakes negotiations on funding for the Iraq war in what has become an exhaustive test of wills.
The talks are expected to continue for days, as the each side struggles for the upper hand.
"To be successful, we must end the finger-pointing and instead roll up our sleeves and work together. I believe that we can â€” and we will," said Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va.
At stake is the nearly $90 billion Bush says is needed to pay for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan through September. Earlier this month, Congress sent â€” and Bush vetoed â€” a $124.2 billion bill that would have funded the war but ordered troop withdrawals to begin by Oct. 1.
Without enough votes to override Bush's veto, Democrats are laboring to send Bush new legislation by Memorial Day that challenges Bush's Iraq policy but ensures troops have the resources they need.
The House wants to fund the war in two-month installments, giving members a chance to cut off money for combat if conditions in Iraq do not improve.
That approach is not expected to survive the Senate, where Democrats hold a razor-thin majority and several of them oppose limiting war funding. Bush also has threatened to veto the approach.
In a bid to expedite negotiations and avoid thorny procedural hurdles, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid set up a vote Thursday on a nonbinding resolution expressing support for the troops. The measure is expected to pass with broad bipartisan support and provide Democrats a legislative vehicle to begin negotiations with the House.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he discussed in recent meetings the "substance of a final deal" with Majority Leader Harry Reid and White House chief of staff Josh Bolten. He declined to offer any specifics.
Reid, D-Nev., told reporters that the final outcome will not give the president what he wants.
"He's not going to have the blank check," Reid said. "There's a Congress and he has to deal with us."