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President, Congress Spar over Iraq War Funding

President Bush continued to press the Democratic-led Congress to fund the war in Iraq without setting a timetable for troop withdrawal. NewsHour historians compare the current situation with past clashes over war powers.

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    From the president on down, Republicans spent the day chastising Democrats for going nine weeks without approving emergency funding for the war in Iraq.

    GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States: Sixty-four days ago, I said to the United States Congress, "These troops need funding."

    SEN. JOHN ENSIGN (R), Nevada: Readiness of the United States Armed Forces will be hurt by the delay in approving the supplemental.

    SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), Texas: It's just unconscionable to me to tie the hands of the very troops that we all say we support.


    The Democratic majorities in the House and Senate narrowly passed separate versions of a $100 billion-plus spending bill late last month, each including timetables for withdrawing U.S. troops. But a final bill can't be negotiated until the House returns from its spring recess next week.

    The delay prompted frustrated Republicans to shoot off a letter yesterday to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, urging her to bring the House back early and warning that "our troops have been put at risk."

    President Bush echoed that sentiment this morning during a speech at an American Legion post in Northern Virginia. He also reiterated his threat to veto any bill sent to him that includes troop withdrawal timetables. The delay, the president said, has forced the Army to make costly adjustments.


    In March, Congress was told that the military would need to take money from military personnel accounts, weapons, and communications systems so we can continue to fund programs that protect our soldiers and Marines from improvised explosive devices and send hundreds of mine-resistant vehicles to our troops on the front lines.

    These actions are only the beginning. And the longer Congress delays, the worse the impact on the men and women of the Armed Forces will be.


    But Democrats maintain that the president and his congressional allies are overstating the consequences. They note that a recent report from the non-partisan Congressional Research Service stated that the Army has enough financial flexibility to pay for operations in Iraq well into July.

    This morning, Majority Leader Harry Reid said the president must understand that Democrats will place conditions on further funding of the war.

    SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), Senate Majority Leader: Things are not OK in Iraq. As the pope said on Easter Sunday, a slaughter is taking place in Iraq. The pope further said nothing good is coming from Iraq.

    The president must realize that he has to deal with Congress. We are an independent branch of this government. And by our Constitution, we have equal say that he has. And he's got to listen to us, because we are speaking for the American people. He isn't.


    Some Democrats have signaled a willingness to compromise with the president, and he now says he wants to talk. But the White House says it will not be a negotiating session.

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