CRAWFORD, Texas – President Bush criticized Democrats on Saturday for going on vacation without first giving him what he wants: a war spending bill free of orders to pull troops home.
"I recognize that Democrats are trying to show their current opposition to the war in Iraq," Bush said in his weekly radio address from Crawford, where he is on a break of his own.
"They see the emergency war spending bill as a chance to make that statement," Bush said. "Yet for our men and women in uniform, this emergency war spending bill is not a political statement, it is a source of critical funding that has a direct impact on their daily lives."
In response, Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean said Bush was sticking to a "my way or the highway" approach to governing.
"It is time for the president and Republicans in Congress to stop trying to bully their way through this and work with Democrats to end the war," Dean said in his party's weekly radio address. "It's time for the president to show respect to the American people, who voted overwhelmingly to leave Iraq."
Bush has asked Congress for more than $100 billion to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan this year. The House and Senate have approved the money, but their bills aim to wind down the war by including timelines for troops to come home — something Bush won't accept.
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 orders all combat troops out by Sept. 1, 2008.
Democratic leaders have yet to negotiate a final version to send the president, and Bush has already made clear he will veto it anyway, which will start the process all over.
The Senate has been on a weeklong break; the House is out for two weeks.
"That means the soonest the House and Senate could get a bill to my desk will be sometime late this month, after the adverse consequences for our troops and their families have already begun," Bush said. "For our troops, the clock is ticking."
Democrats contend Bush has grossly mismanaged the war. They aim to use their power over spending — and ride the tide of public anti-war sentiment — to force a policy change.
Bush, citing the opinions of his top military leaders, said the delay undermines the troops.
Unless he can sign a bill by mid-April, he said, the Army will be forced to consider cutting back on training and equipment repair. The problem will grow even more dire if Congress does not send him a bill he supports by mid-May, Bush said.
Democratic leaders, while eager to show backing for the troops, say Bush is overstating the consequences of missing those deadlines. The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service says the Army has enough bookkeeping flexibility to pay for operations in Iraq well into July.
Bush is spending the Easter weekend in tranquility at his ranch, but the reminders of public opposition are never far away. Peace activist Cindy Sheehan, whose son Casey was killed in Iraq in 2004, was back to lead another protest.
Sheehan drew international attention for staging a vigil outside Bush's ranch in August 2005. On Friday, she led roughly 100 people on a march to the security checkpoint at Bush's property. She said the group would use a bullhorn to call out the names of each dead soldier.