White House Rejects Democratic Plan to Fund Troops in Iraq

Democratic congressional leaders appeared to blink Friday in presenting the White House with a war funding proposal that did away with billions of dollars in domestic spending opposed by the administration, but President Bush's aides quickly rejected the offer on the grounds that it contained yet another timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq.

"To say I was disappointed in the meeting is an understatement," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. "I really did expect the president would accept some accountability for what we're trying to accomplish here."

White House chief of staff Joshua Bolten, representing Bush, turned down the Democratic offer that included plans for withdrawing U.S. troops, but would give the president the authority to waive compliance with a timetable.

"We consider that to be not a significant distinction," Bolten said. "Whether waivable or not, timelines send the wrong signal."

The Democratic plan also offered to take out billions of dollars of domestic spending included in the emergency supplemental bill.

"The president pummeled the Congress for two weeks because he said that we have inserted so-called domestic items that shouldn’t be in a war bill," said Rep. David Obey, D-Wis. "So what we offered today to drop all of that – all of those domestic items – and they turned that down."

Earlier Friday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi predicted that congressional leaders will reach an agreement on how to fund U.S. troops in Iraq by next week.

Pelosi told reporters that she is "absolutely certain that the troops will have what they need by the end of next week" after meeting with Bolten and other lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

The sticking point holding up the negotiations is how to hold the Iraqi government accountable for meeting benchmarks if it fails to implement political and security reforms.

"The discussion we will have here today I hope will be a constructive one," said Pelosi, D-Calif. "The American people hope that we can work together. We owe it to them to try."

Pelosi and Reid met in a closed-door meeting with Bolten to get their message across that the next war-spending bill must set standards for the Iraqi government to meet.

"The American people deserve to know that the Democrats' commitment to bring this war to its responsible end has never been stronger," Reid, D-Nev., said Thursday. "And if enough of our Republican colleagues decide to join with us, even the president of the United States will have to listen."

The White House and Democratic-controlled Congress have been at loggerheads on war funding since May 1 when President Bush vetoed a $124.2 billion bill that would have funded the war through September but demanded that troops begin coming home this fall. Bush also opposed more than $20 billion added to his spending request, most of which funds domestic projects.

Unable to override the veto, Democrats have been trying to find a way to pass a new bill by Memorial Day that funds the troops but still challenges Bush's Iraq policy.

While Reid and Pelosi, D-Calif., say they have not taken anything off the table, it is widely anticipated Democrats will back down on their insistence that the legislation include a firm timetable on the war.

Also scheduled to attend Friday's meeting will be Republican leaders Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio. It follows days of phone calls between Bolten and the Democrats, and a private meeting Thursday attended by Reid, McConnell and Bolten.

"My expectation is that the conferees will strip the surrender date and extraneous funds from the original bill," said McConnell.

In recent weeks, Republicans have said they would support legislation that insists the Iraqi government meet certain benchmarks. Bush also has said he would agree to setting standards for Baghdad, but has not said what consequences should be imposed if the Iraqi government fails.

This week, Senate Republicans voted overwhelmingly in favor of a bill that would threaten billions in U.S. aid to Iraq if Baghdad failed to meet the benchmarks. However, the measure failed after Democrats said it was too weak because it would have allowed the president to waive the restriction.

FOX News' Molly Hooper and The Associated Press contributed to this report.