Friday, May 18, 2007

Dems drop Iraq timetable, but White House rejects deal


WASHINGTON (AP) — Democratic congressional leaders on Friday offered the first concessions in a fight with President Bush over a spending bill for Iraq, but the White House turned them down.

The Democrats, in a meeting with Bush's top aides on Capitol Hill, said they would strip from a war spending bill billions of dollars in domestic spending that the White House had opposed. They also pledged to give Bush authority to waive compliance with a timetable to pull combat troops out of Iraq.

But no agreement emerged.

"To say I was disappointed in the meeting is an understatement," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

At stake is the 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 funded the war but also would have demanded that troops start coming home Oct. 1.

Bush swiftly rejected that bill. Unable to override his veto, Democrats have been trying to find a way to pass a new bill by Memorial Day that funds the troops but still challenges Bush's Iraq policy.

Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi emerged from a closed-door meeting with White House chief of staff Joshua Bolten to say they had offered the concessions to no avail.

Bush has said he is open to setting standards for the Iraqi government to meet, but has not said whether he would accept consequences if Baghdad fails.

"It is clear that the difference between the president and Democrats is accountability," said Pelosi, D-Calif.

Pelosi said negotiations with the White House were not dead, but she and Reid made it clear they would proceed this weekend on their own in drafting a new bill they could be widely supported in Congress. The leaders said the plan remained to send Bush a bill by the Memorial Day recess.

"Our troops will be funded," the House speaker said.......

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