Bush fails to break deadlock on Iraq

first_imgSen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, said, “The president, obviously, as you already know, is not going to accept language that specifies a date for surrender or language that micromanages the efforts of our military in Iraq.” The discussions took place on one of the deadliest days of the year in Baghdad, where at least 171 people were killed in bombings. Democrats said the violence underscored the urgency of finding a new direction in Iraq, one that did not place U.S. troops in the middle of a civil war. At the beginning of the meeting, Bush declared, “People have strong opinions around the table and I’m looking forward to listening to them.” And for the next hour, according to participants and aides in the room, a frank conversation unfolded between the president and the 10 legislative leaders seated around the table in the Cabinet Room. A White House official who attended the meeting, and spoke on condition of anonymity in order to describe details, said Bush’s first question to the Democratic leaders was, “When can you get me a bill?” And, this official said, Bush told the Democrats that he hoped to ultimately follow several of the guidelines set forth last year in a report by the Iraq Study Group, which called for an eventual draw-down of U.S. troops. According to the official, Bush noted that the Study Group, whose co-chairman was his father’s former political aide, James A. Baker III, had suggested that a temporary troop increase could be a necessary step on the way to an eventual withdrawal. WASHINGTON – After weeks of acrimonious sparring over financing the next phase of the war, President George W. Bush and congressional leaders softened their tone on Wednesday but failed to resolve their differences over a timeline for removing most U.S. combat troops from Iraq next year. Bush met with a bipartisan group of lawmakers in the White House for nearly an hour, the first face-to-face discussion since the House and Senate passed emergency Iraq spending bills last month with provisions to end the war. Democrats said they would send the president legislation by the end of next week, despite his pledge to veto it. “We believe he must search his soul, his conscience, and find out what is the right thing for the American people,” Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic majority leader, told reporters after the meeting. “I believe signing this bill will do that.” The White House, though, said Bush had no intention of signing any legislation that included a call for a troop withdrawal. Democrats do not have enough support to override a veto, so the debate over financing the troops remains at an impasse. For weeks, White House officials have said they are eager for Democrats to send a bill to the president that he will veto, so they can begin negotiating a financing measure both sides can agree on. But first, Democrats must reconcile differences between the House and Senate versions of the legislation, which include different timetables for troops to be removed from Iraq. The House passed a bill calling for troops to be withdrawn no later than Sept. 1, 2008, or earlier if the Iraqi government does not meet a series of benchmarks. The Senate measure would begin a gradual redeployment of troops in four months, but set a goal for troops to be removed by March 31, 2008. According to several participants at the meeting, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, offered to accept the Senate timelines. But Bush and Republican leaders said they would not support any deadlines. As she left the White House, Pelosi called the session a “productive meeting.” “We came here in a spirit of hope,” she said, “recognizing that this is an historic opportunity for the executive branch, for the president and the Congress to work together to wind down this war and to ensure the security of our country and the stability of the region.” During the meeting, Bush was the only administration official who spoke, though he was accompanied by Vice President Dick Cheney; the White House chief of staff, Joshua B. Bolten; the national security adviser, Stephen J. Hadley, and others. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more