Published April 03, 2007
WASHINGTON – President Bush called on Congress Tuesday to stop stalling and approve funding for the war in Iraq instead of debating differences "at the expense of our troops."
"Instead of passing clean bills that fund our troops on the front lines, the House and Senate have spent this time debating bills that undercut the troops," Bush said from the White House Rose Garden.
The president defended his demands that Congress approve war funding with no timetable to withdraw combat troops from Iraq. Bush repeated his promise to veto legislation that includes a withdrawal timetable.
"I think the voters in America want our Congress to support our troops in harm's way. They want money to the troops and they don't want politicians in Washington telling our generals how to fight the war," Bush said.
• Video: Click here to watch Bush's remarks.
“We cannot afford to continue the president’s disastrous Iraq policy, which has weakened our national security and undercut our fight against those who attacked us on 9/11,” Feingold said in a statement released after Bush’s remarks. "By safely redeploying our troops, we can refocus on fighting the global terrorist networks that continue to threaten the lives of Americans."
The president urged lawmakers to return to the nation's capital from their spring recess to get the legislation to his desk for a veto and then move on to another measure that would approve the funding.
"Our troops need Congress to provide the resources, funds and equipment they need to fight their enemies," Bush said, who sent his funding request for more than $100 billion to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan 57 days ago.
Reid and Feingold's legislation is the "next step" in the Iraq debate, a spokesman for Feingold told FOX News. The new legislation essentially gives a hard deadline to language passed by the Senate last week in a supplemental war spending bill.
On another topic, Bush also criticized House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's trip to Syria on Tuesday, saying it sends the wrong signal.
"Sending delegations doesn't work. It's simply been counterproductive," Bush said.
Pelosi is leading a congressional delegation on a fact-finding mission in hopes of improving U.S. relations with Syria.
Republican congressmen Frank Wolf, Joe Pitts and Robert Aderholt met with Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus on Sunday.
Bush also responded to questions about the 15 British sailors captured by Iran in waters that separate Iraq and Iran on March 23. British Prime Minister Tony Blair vowed to continue diplomatic attempts to resolve the seizure of the sailors.
"I strongly support the prime minister's declaration that there should be no quid pro quo when it comes to the hostages," Bush said.
Bush also addressed the flap over the firing of eight U.S. attorneys under investigation by Congress. Several lawmakers want Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to resign.
"They serve at my pleasure, they had served four-year terms, and we have every right to replace them," Bush said. "I'm sorry it's come to this. On the other hand, there has been no credible evidence of wrongdoing."
Meanwhile, the Democratic plan for Iraq dominated the political debate. Vice President Dick Cheney said Reid and Feingold's plan would guarantee a loss in Iraq.
"It's time the self-appointed strategists on Capitol Hill understood a very simple concept: You cannot win a war if you tell the enemy you're going to quit," Cheney said Monday at a fundraising luncheon for Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala.
The supplemental war spending bill listed March 31, 2008, as a suggested goal for withdrawing all U.S. combat troops from Iraq. The new legislation would reinforce that date by preventing funding for the mission after that deadline.
"No funds appropriated or otherwise made available under any provision of law may be obligated or expended to continue the deployment in Iraq of members of the United States Armed Forces after March 31, 2008," reads the measure.
Like the earlier bill, which passed 50-48 in the Senate, the Feingold measure also requires the president to begin redeploying U.S. troops from Iraq 120 days from enactment. It makes exceptions for funds designated for targeted operations against Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups; security for U.S. infrastructure and personnel; and training and equipping of Iraqi security services.
“Congress has a responsibility to end a war that is opposed by the American people and is undermining our national security. By ending funding for the president’s failed Iraq policy, our bill requires the president to safely redeploy our troops from Iraq," Feingold said in a statement.
The earlier spending bill must first be reconciled with a House version that calls for redeployment by September 2008.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates said if Congress fails to pass a measure funding the war efforts by April 15, it will slow down training of troops scheduled for future deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.
On Monday, House Minority Leader John Boehner released a letter to the president signed by 154 Republicans vowing to sustain his veto of any war supplemental spending bill that contains pork-barrel spending Democrats added to secure its passage.
The letter is a by-product of the closed-door meeting Bush had with House Republicans last week. Boehner had been lobbying the White House to oppose the Democrats' war-funding bill not only because it sets a timeline for troop withdrawals but also because it's stuffed with billions in non-emergency farm aid, extraneous items for the U.S. Capitol like asbestos removal and guided tours, plus $100 million for security at next year's presidential nominating conventions.
Boehner and members of the GOP leadership team began collecting signatures for the veto letter after last Thursday's White House meeting with the president and gathered more than enough support to sustain a veto in less than three hours. Boehner said he believes virtually all of the 201 House Republicans in the 110th Congress will vote to sustain a veto purely over the extra spending.
Asked Sunday why war spending legislation contained funding for projects like peanut crops and cricket infestations, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel acknowledged Democratic leaders "needed the votes."
FOX News' Major Garrett, Wendell Goler and Molly Hooper contributed to this report.