WASHINGTON – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office charged Monday that Republicans had engaged in a "cheap political stunt" when they sent her a letter accusing Democrats of stalling on passage of the critical war funding bill.
The spat is over the current bill Congress is considering to pay for ongoing efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also includes money for Gulf Coast recovery and farming initiatives. Both the House and Senate have passed versions of the bill — the House version is $124 billion and the Senate version is $122 billion — but House and Senate negotiators need to agree on the final version before it can be sent to the president.
President Bush has threatened to veto any bill that sets timetables for troop withdrawal from Iraq — and both versions include dates that set timeframes for just that.
"Congress has an obligation to our troops in the field to move this emergency security funding measure to the president as quickly as possible," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement Monday.
McConnell, R-Ky., blamed House leadership for the delays.
"Senate Republicans are prepared to send a clean bill to the president for his signature, yet inaction by the House is preventing Congress from moving forward to fund our men and women on the ground," McConnell said.
McConnell also joined other Republicans in sending a letter to the California House leader, calling on her to order the House back into session before its scheduled back-to-work date next week. The letter criticized Pelosi over not yet naming House negotiators, even though the Senate named its negotiators the day it passed its version of the bill.
"Our troops need this funding, and they need it soon. The Senate is in session and ready to work. We respectfully request that you cancel the remainder of your break, call the House back into session, appoint conferees promptly, and work in good faith to pass a clean supplemental funding bill that the president can sign as soon as possible. Every day we don't fund our troops is a day their ability to fight this war is weakened," the letter concluded.
Pelosi spokesman Brendan Daly chafed at the message.
"Coming from the Republicans, who ran the 'do-nothing' Congress, this letter is a cheap political stunt," Daly said in a statement given to FOX News.
"The American people overwhelmingly support the Democratic plan for change in Iraq, yet the president has threatened to veto legislation that contains his own benchmarks for success in Iraq, ensures our troops have the training they need, and supports our veterans," he added.
Daly said Bush should have requested money in the regular budget process, and noted a recent Congressional Research Service report that said the Army could maintain wartime operations into July with money that already has been allocated. Bush administration officials have said that it would have to seriously reduce vehicle maintenance and troop training, and increase the length of combat troops' tours, if the bill isn't passed by mid-May.
Daly added that work is continuing on the bill and indicated that negotiators would be named soon.
"The House and Senate will soon pass a conference report giving the President every penny he requested for our troops, but it will also require accountability, for the first time since the Iraq war began," he said.
FOX News' Molly Hooper contributed to this report.