Bush, Democrats meet on Iraq


Summary

The bitter feud lingers, however, in the harshest fight over war powers since the end of the Vietnam conflict.

President Bush welcomed Congressional leaders of both political parties to the White House to map the way forward on emergency war funding after he vetoed the Democrats' effort to tie military spending to a withdrawal timeline.

"I'm confident that we can reach agreement. I know that it's going to require goodwill, but we all care deeply about our country and care about this issue," the president said in brief remarks as the talks got underway.

After the meeting, all sides seemed to agree on the need to wrap up the legislation by the May 28 Memorial Day break.

"It is time for us to try to work together," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. "But make no mistake: Democrats are committed to ending this war, and we hope to do so in unison with the president of the United States."

Each side urged the other to compromise amid increasing talk of agreeing to "benchmarks" for the Baghdad government and signs that Democrats were prepared to drop their precise withdrawal timetables from the spending bill.

Signposts

Mr Bush, an unpopular leader waging an unpopular war, signalled some of his strongest support to set clear signposts for the Baghdad government as he addressed a very friendly crowd at a national builders' meeting here.

"Iraq's leaders still have got a lot to do," he said. "They've got a lot more to do and the United States expects them to do it, just like I expect them to remain courageous and just like they expect us to keep our word."

But he rejected any "precipitous withdrawal" from Iraq, the chief reason he gave on Tuesday for vetoing a 124-billion-dollar spending bill for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that also set October 1 as the start date for withdrawing the 146,000 US troops in Iraq.

The Democratic majority leader in the House of Representatives, Steny Hoyer, said he hoped the chamber would vote on a new Iraq war budget within two weeks, and signalled the party would not choke off funding for US troops.

"We will not allow this to languish," he said. "We are going to fund the troops, we are not going to leave our troops in harm's way without the resources that they need."

Such a schedule would allow the Senate to take up its own version and send the new emergency bill to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to President Bush at the end of May, he said.

George Bush defended his decision to send more US troops to Iraq this year and pleaded for patience with his approach amid polls showing that both he and the war are deeply unpopular.

New benchmarks

"We are heading in the right direction," he said, telling the friendly audience that signs of progress in Iraq were "not headline-grabbing" and "certainly can't compete with a car bomb or a suicide attack."

Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told Fox television that benchmarks for the Iraqi government "is the place where compromise could well be achieved."

"There's bipartisan frustration — frustration in the Congress with the Iraqi government. I think we can reach an agreement on the kinds of requirements of the Iraqi government that they ought to be pursuing," he said.

He cited the Baghdad government's struggle with passing legislation on oil revenue sharing, setting up local elections, and other matters.

Mr Bush also seemed to revise his definition of victory in the war, saying: "The definition of success as I described is 'sectarian violence down.' Success is not, 'no violence.'"

"There are parts of our own country that have got a certain level of violence to it. But success is a level of violence where the people feel comfortable about living their daily lives," he said.

George Bush had most recently defined success as creating a government in Iraq that can "sustain itself, govern itself, and defend itself."


The bitter feud lingers, however, in the harshest fight over war powers since the end of the Vietnam conflict.

President Bush welcomed Congressional leaders of both political parties to the White House to map the way forward on emergency war funding after he vetoed the Democrats' effort to tie military spending to a withdrawal timeline.

"I'm confident that we can reach agreement. I know that it's going to require goodwill, but we all care deeply about our country and care about this issue," the president said in brief remarks as the talks got underway.

After the meeting, all sides seemed to agree on the need to wrap up the legislation by the May 28 Memorial Day break.

"It is time for us to try to work together," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. "But make no mistake: Democrats are committed to ending this war, and we hope to do so in unison with the president of the United States."

Each side urged the other to compromise amid increasing talk of agreeing to "benchmarks" for the Baghdad government and signs that Democrats were prepared to drop their precise withdrawal timetables from the spending bill.

Signposts

Mr Bush, an unpopular leader waging an unpopular war, signalled some of his strongest support to set clear signposts for the Baghdad government as he addressed a very friendly crowd at a national builders' meeting here.

"Iraq's leaders still have got a lot to do," he said. "They've got a lot more to do and the United States expects them to do it, just like I expect them to remain courageous and just like they expect us to keep our word."

But he rejected any "precipitous withdrawal" from Iraq, the chief reason he gave on Tuesday for vetoing a 124-billion-dollar spending bill for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that also set October 1 as the start date for withdrawing the 146,000 US troops in Iraq.

The Democratic majority leader in the House of Representatives, Steny Hoyer, said he hoped the chamber would vote on a new Iraq war budget within two weeks, and signalled the party would not choke off funding for US troops.

"We will not allow this to languish," he said. "We are going to fund the troops, we are not going to leave our troops in harm's way without the resources that they need."

Such a schedule would allow the Senate to take up its own version and send the new emergency bill to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to President Bush at the end of May, he said.

George Bush defended his decision to send more US troops to Iraq this year and pleaded for patience with his approach amid polls showing that both he and the war are deeply unpopular.

New benchmarks

"We are heading in the right direction," he said, telling the friendly audience that signs of progress in Iraq were "not headline-grabbing" and "certainly can't compete with a car bomb or a suicide attack."

Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told Fox television that benchmarks for the Iraqi government "is the place where compromise could well be achieved."

"There's bipartisan frustration — frustration in the Congress with the Iraqi government. I think we can reach an agreement on the kinds of requirements of the Iraqi government that they ought to be pursuing," he said.

He cited the Baghdad government's struggle with passing legislation on oil revenue sharing, setting up local elections, and other matters.

Mr Bush also seemed to revise his definition of victory in the war, saying: "The definition of success as I described is 'sectarian violence down.' Success is not, 'no violence.'"

"There are parts of our own country that have got a certain level of violence to it. But success is a level of violence where the people feel comfortable about living their daily lives," he said.

George Bush had most recently defined success as creating a government in Iraq that can "sustain itself, govern itself, and defend itself."