- The Washington Times - Monday, April 16, 2007

2:20 p.m.

President Bush said this morning that he is willing to discuss differences with Democrats over emergency spending for the Iraq war, but he repeated his stance that he will veto any bill that includes a timeline for withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq.

“We should not legislate defeat in this vital war,” Mr. Bush said during a 15-minute speech to military families in the East Room of the White House.

Mr. Bush is scheduled to meet with Democratic leaders Wednesday at the White House to talk about the war funding bill.

The Democratic-controlled Senate and House have passed separate emergency funding bills that would require all U.S. troops to be out of Iraq by the end of 2008.

Mr. Bush has said for months that he would veto such a bill, and he is asking Congress to send him a spending bill without a withdrawal timeline.

The president said he is willing to “talk out our differences” but also said he hopes “the Democratic leadership will drop their unreasonable demand for a precipitous withdrawal.”

“It is wrong for Congress to restrict our military commanders,” he said. “I am willing to discuss any way forward that does not hamstring our troops, set an artificial timetable for withdrawal and spend billions on projects not related to the war.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, was equally resolute that Democrats would not back down from their position that a withdrawal timeline be included.

“The offer is that the president sign our bill,” Mr. Reid said.

“Congress is committed to fully funding the troops, changing the course in Iraq and responsibly ending the conflict in faraway Iraq. We are committed to pressing these goals to the administration until they do change course,” Mr. Reid said.

Mr. Bush said in his speech that his surge of about 30,000 additional U.S. troops to Iraq has not yet been fully carried out.

“We’ve only committed about a little over half of our troops into a decision I made to help secure the Iraqi capital, and yet there are some saying we ought to leave before we get there,” Mr. Bush said.

Rep. Rahm Emanuel, Illinois Democrat, said that Mr. Bush and the Republican Party should hold the Iraqi government and military responsible to bring their country under control.

“As they rush to embrace the Bush plan for more of the same in Iraq, the Republican policy is to make U.S. troops bear the full burden of the war on their shoulders,” Mr. Emanuel said.

The Senate bill would require a U.S. troop exit in Iraq to begin within 120 days, with a completion goal of March 31, 2008. The House bill would order all combat troops out by Sept. 1, 2008.

Mr. Bush said, however, that “Congress’ failure to fund our troops will mean that the readiness of our forces will suffer.”

“This is unacceptable to me … and it’s unacceptable to the vast majority of the American people,” Mr. Bush said.

In his speech, the president repeatedly drew attention to those who “understand the stakes” of the war in Iraq.

“The families gathered here understand that we are a nation at war. Like me, they wish we weren’t at war — but we are,” Mr. Bush said.

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