White House Threatens Veto Over Spending Bill, Even After Democrats' Iraq War Concessions

The White House and senior Democratic leaders continue to butt heads over a massive spending bill that includes billions of dollars in Iraq war funding, even after Democrats indicated they would drop their demands for troop withdrawal timetables.

The White House has not seen details of the $500 billion-plus measure but on Saturday threatened to veto based on information in press reports.

Jim Nussle, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, said in a statement that the so-called compromise would still include too much "excess spending."

"Instead of trying to leverage troop-funding for more pork-barrel spending, Congress ought to pass responsible appropriations bills and the funding for the troops our commanders say they need to build on their battlefield successes," he said. "If presented a bill like the one described in today's press reports, the president would veto it."

Democrats were expected to allow Senate Republicans to attach tens of billions of dollars for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to the government-wide spending bill. That move would be in exchange for GOP support on the huge spending measure.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., had insisted that if Democrats want legislation paying for government operations this year, they would have to include money for the Iraq war.

But The Washington Post reported on a new Democratic proposal Saturday that would include $11 billion more in domestic spending than what President Bush had requested. McConnell spokesman Don Stewart said the new plan was still "unacceptable" to Republicans.

In response, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., issued a joint statement calling the veto threat reckless.

"For a President already lacking in credibility, it is dangerous to issue veto threats based on press reports alone," they said.

Even if passed, the plan would cap off a disappointing year for Democrats on Iraq. The party had taken control of Congress for the first time since 1994, seizing on the public's frustration with the war. But their slim margins in the Senate rendered Democrats powerless in trying to bring troops home.

"We've tried maybe a dozen times" to bring troops home, said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. "And when we do try and we don't succeed, we still provide funding for the troops."

After a $50 billion House bill that would set a goal of bringing most troops home by December 2008 failed in the Senate in the face of a veto threat, the House is now expected to vote as early as Tuesday on the catchall spending measure, with an estimated $30 billion for Afghanistan and some domestic military requirements.

The bill would not initially include money for Iraq, until it makes its way to the Senate and faces the threat of a GOP filibuster. That is when Reid is expected to allow a vote on a Republican amendment to add the Iraq money.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told The Washington Post editorial board that Democratic leaders are working toward soon completing the spending package — without a timetable for withdrawing troops — and that President Bush's strong opposition to timetables made concessions necessary.

"The way you pass appropriations bills is you get agreement among all the relevant players, among which the president with his veto pen is a very relevant player," Hoyer said. "Everybody knows he has no intention of signing anything without money for Iraq, unfettered, without constraints. I think that's ultimately going to be the result."

Click here to read The Washington Post article.

Hoyer said House Democratic leaders could complete work as early as Monday on a package that could eventually include $70 billion for the Iraq war — less than the $196 billion Bush sought.

Hoyer touted the domestic spending increases that Bush opposes, saying the money would go toward emergency drought relief in the Southeast and money for the subprime mortgage crisis.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.