No deal, no timetable, no funding for Iraq

The White House and Congress failed to strike a deal Friday after exchanging competing offers on an Iraq war spending bill that Democrats said should set a date for U.S. troops to leave.

"Timelines for withdrawal are just not the right way to go, and that cannot be the basis for funding our troops," said Joshua Bolten, White House chief of staff, after a nearly 90-minute meeting on Capitol Hill.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said they offered to grant Bush the authority to waive the deadlines. They said they also suggested they would drop billions of dollars in proposed domestic spending that Bush opposed, in exchange for his acceptance of identifying a withdrawal date.

The offer marked the Democrats' first major concessions in a weekslong battle with the White House on war funding.

"To say I was disappointed in the meeting is an understatement," Reid, D-Nev., told reporters. "I really did expect that the president would accept some accountability for what we're trying to accomplish here."

At stake is more than $90 billion the president says is needed to cover the costs of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan through September. The Democratic-controlled Congress on May 1 sent Bush a bill that would have paid for the war but also would have demanded that troops start coming home by Oct. 1. Bush vetoed the measure that same day.

The U.S. has spent more than $300 billion on Iraq military operations so far, according to a report Friday by the Government Accountability Office.

For their part, the administration and congressional Republicans said they were willing to consider legislation that sets standards for the Iraqi government and possibly restricts U.S. aid if Baghdad fails to live up to its promises.

In question, however, is whether the White House will accept binding consequences if the Iraqi government fails. Bush's aides say the president should be able to waive those restrictions — an offer Democrats have said is too weak.

According to GOP and Democratic aides, Pelosi and Reid did not reject Bolten's suggestion of setting benchmarks, but also did not embrace it. Their focus was identifying a date U.S. troops will leave Iraq, the aides said.

Also not ruled out is that Democrats will send Bush next week another bill he might reject.

"I was a little surprised that (the) Democratic leaders, at least so far, seem so dug in on that position" of setting a timetable, Bolten said. "Because it's a position that … the president vetoed and which was sustained in" both chambers.

The Democrats' insistence on a timetable comes as the party is under substantial pressure not to cede ground on the unpopular and costly war, in its fifth year. Particularly in the House, where a large number of members were elected last fall on anti-war platforms, many Democratic rank-and-file say they would oppose any legislation that does not advance the idea of bringing troops home.

"It is clear that the difference between the Democrats and the president is the issue of accountability," said Pelosi, D-Calif. "He will not accept any accountability or responsibility for what has happened there."

Attending the rare meeting on Capitol Hill were Bolten, White House national security adviser Stephen Hadley and White House budget director Rob Portman, as well as Reid, Pelosi, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Reps. Jerry Lewis and David Obey. Lewis, R-Calif., is the top Republican on the House Appropriations Committee and Obey, D-Wis., is chairman.

House Republican Leader John Boehner, who also attended, mocked the Democrats for offering to eliminate domestic spending — money they once defended as crucial — in exchange for troop withdrawals.

"What a principled stand to take when we're talking about our men and women in uniform in Iraq taking on the enemy in a war that I think most Americans want to win," said Boehner, R-Ohio.

Pelosi said negotiations with the White House were not dead, but she and Reid made it clear they would proceed in drafting a new bill to be voted on next week.

The Democrats declined to say what their next bill will look like in light of Friday's meeting. But they insisted, as they have done for weeks, that nothing — including a timetable on the war — was off the table.

"Our troops will be funded," she said.


  1. Klaus Hergeschimmer

    Lets see, in the latest offer by Nancy Pelosi & Harry Reid they insisted there had to be language in the spending bill for a withdrawl date, yet
    they offered Bush the power to waive withdrawl dates.

    Now what kind of offer is that when Pelosi & Reid want withdrawl dates, but give Bush the option of waiving the withdrawl dates. Bush rejected this offer anyway, but that’s not the point.

    Please, Mrs. Pelosi & Mr. Reid, explain the down side of insisting on a mandatory withdrawl dates when 70% of the American public wants our troops out of Iraq, yet you offer him the option of waiving withdrawl dates.

  2. April-May

    Mandatory date with the President’s option to waive, puts the onus on Dumbass. It would set up an expectation that Dumbass can’t meet, and in waiving it Dumbass would be conceding that his debacle in Iraq is out of control.

    Congress has provided TWO funding bills and Dumbass has vetoed both.

    Congress should simply state: “You’ve vetoed two proposals. We’re not going to fund your war at all. We’ve cut off your allowance.”

    — Too bad Dumbass can’t get grounded, sent to his room, and no TV.

    NRA Distinguished Life Member

  3. gene

    You know sometimes I wonder if the dems and bush are not on the same side and just pretending to have different view points. Iraq is surely lost and God only knows what is going to happen in the near future. As a nation and as a planet, our days are numbered.

    We have finally evolved into a stage I would consider “insane insanity” now may I ask you just how crazy is that? Crazy enough to destroy the human race, assuming it could still be consider human.

  4. Carl Nemo

    At this point, I unequivocally believe the Dems and Republicans both have an interest in turning this into an endless, Orwellian war for the benefit of the M.I. Complex and the “oil patch”. As I’ve said in many other posts, I’d love to be able to examine the portfolios of both Congressmen and Senators that are currently held in trust, to see how many are enriching themselves off plumped oil stocks, oil service company stocks and the defense sector?!

    The Dems don’t have to cut Bush “any” slack since they control the purse strings and he wants/needs the off-budget money to feed the every-hungry maw of his constituents in the MIC and the “oil patch”. This 96,000 million bucks is just to “tide” them over until September. Say what…?! So the mere fact they offered him “waiver” rights concerning deadlines tells me they are traitors to “we the people”, the Republic, and the Constitution. If the Dems want control of the Whitehouse in 2009 they best put their finger to the wind and call it right, otherwise a whole bunch of entrenched Dems including Pelosi, Reid et. al., along with a host of intransigent Republicans are going to be hitting the bricks after the next election.

    They are “all” suspect! Too bad I’m not doing the bargaining from the Dems side of the table because I’d look Bushco’s negotiators right in their collective eyes and say deadlines are an absolute must, and if you want the money, then you best “take it or leave it”…! The negotiations are closed then walk away.

    Rest assured the troops aren’t going to be left standing at Bagdhad airport without ammo standing in their scivvies. :)) This is all “fear talk” for the unwashed masses. No money and they’l be packing their bags in 90 days or less…EOW (End of War)!

    To allow Bushco to continue this shakedown of the American taxpayer is national financial suicide, plain and simple…!

    I recommend that all citizen patriots contact their elected “republicrats” this coming week and demand we exit Iraq immediately if not sooner. This whole debacle based on engineered intelligence courtesy of the Wolfowitz-Feith-Cheney rogue intelligence pipeline has finally reached the limits of credibility. If we came back in 500 years the duty ragheads will still be slugging it out over Shia/Sunni differences.

    Nemo **==