At this hour, America's brave men and women in uniform are engaging our enemies around the world. And in this time of war, our elected officials have no higher responsibility than to provide these troops with the funds and flexibility they need to prevail.
On Wednesday, I met with Congressional leaders from both parties here at the White House. We discussed ways to pass a responsible emergency war spending bill that will fully fund our troops as quickly as possible. It was a positive meeting. Democratic leaders assured me they are committed to funding our troops, and I told them I'm committed to working with members of both parties to do just that.
I've appointed three senior members of my White House staff to negotiate with Congress on this vital legislation: my Chief of Staff Josh Bolten, National Security Advisor Steve Hadley, and Budget Director Rob Portman. By working together, I believe we can pass a good bill quickly and give our troops the resources and flexibility they need.
Earlier this week, I vetoed the bill Congress sent me because it set a fixed date to begin to pull out of Iraq, imposed unworkable conditions on our military commanders, and included billions of dollars in spending unrelated to the war. And on Wednesday, the House voted to sustain my veto by a wide margin.
I recognize that many Democratic leaders saw this bill as an opportunity to make a statement about their opposition to the war. In a democracy, we should debate our differences openly and honestly. But now it is time to give our troops the resources they are waiting for.
Our troops are now carrying out a new strategy in Iraq under the leadership of a new commander — General David Petraeus. He's an expert in counter-insurgency warfare. The goal of the new strategy he is implementing is to help the Iraqis secure their capital, so they can make progress toward reconciliation and build a free nation that respects the rights of its people, upholds the rule of law, and fights extremists alongside the United States in the war on terror. This strategy is still in its early stages, and Congress needs to give General Petraeus' plan a chance to work.
I know that Republicans and Democrats will not agree on every issue in this war. But the consequences of failure in Iraq are clear. If we were to leave Iraq before the government can defend itself, there would be a security vacuum in the country. Extremists from all factions could compete to fill that vacuum, causing sectarian killing to multiply on a horrific scale.
If radicals and terrorists emerge from this battle with control of Iraq, they would have control of a nation with massive oil reserves, which they could use to fund their dangerous ambitions and spread their influence. The Al Qaeda terrorists who behead captives or order suicide bombings would not be satisfied to see America defeated and gone from Iraq. They would be emboldened by their victory, protected by their new sanctuary, eager to impose their hateful vision on surrounding countries, and eager to harm Americans.
No responsible leader in Washington has an interest in letting that happen. I call on Congress to work with my Administration and quickly craft a responsible war spending bill. We must provide our men and women in uniform with the resources and support they deserve. I'm confident that leaders of goodwill can deliver this important result.
Thank you for listening.