WASHINGTON – In a move that is no surprise to anyone, President Bush on Tuesday issued the second veto of his administration, setting up a new battle with congressional Democrats over a war spending bill to fund troops in Iraq that also sets a timetable for withdrawal.
Bush addressed the nation late Tuesday from the White House after the veto saying the bill mandates "a rigid and artifiical deadline" that will not help end violence in Iraq.
"I believe setting a deadline for withdrawal would demoralize the Iraqi people, would encourage killers across the broader Middle East and send a signal that America does not keep its commitment," Bush said from the Cross Hall.
The legislation would "impose impossible conditions on our military commanders in combat" by allowing Congress to "dictate the terms that remaining commanders could engage the enemy," he said.
Democratic leaders slammed Bush after his veto.
"The president wants a blank check," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., moments after Bush's appearance. "The Congress is not going to give it to him." She said Congress would work with him to find common ground but added that there was "great distance" between them on Iraq
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Bush has an obligation to explain his plan for responsibly ending the war.
"If the president thinks by vetoing this bill, he'll stop us from working to change the direction of the war in Iraq, he is mistaken," Reid said.
In a signing ceremony ahead of the bill's delivery, Democratic leaders urged President Bush to reconsider his plan to veto the legislation, which sets an Oct. 1 deadline for U.S. troops to being pulling out of Iraq.
Democrats timed delivery of the war spending bill with the timetable for withdrawal to fall on the same day of the year that Bush gave his "Mission Accomplished" speech aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003.
Bush vetoed the bill after returning from a trip to Tampa, Fla., to visit the U.S. Central Command. He has repeatedly signaled his opposition to setting a timetable to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq but said he wants to work with Congress to fund the troops on the ground.
"Whatever our differences are, surely we can agree that our troops are worthy of this funding and we have a responsibility to get it to them without further delay," Bush said. "We can begin tomorrow with a bipartisan meeting with congressional leaders at the White House."
Hours before Congress was set to send the bill to the White House, Republicans urged Democrats to stop "playing politics" with the Iraq war supplemental. Later in the day, they praised Bush for his veto.
"Our fighting men and women have stood by patiently as Democrats in Congress tried to pass an 'emergency' funding package larded up with pork and weighed down with unnecessary strings. It's about time this Congress delivered the troops a bill worthy of their continued sacrifice, and consistent with their outstanding needs,” said House Minority Whip Roy Blunt, R-Mo.
"I am very hopeful that we can then use this opportunity to actually solve the problem and stop using it to just make a political statement. We need to get the funding to our troops," Rep. Adam Putnam, R-Fla., told FOX News before the veto.
Former Rep. Joe Sestak, D-Pa., who recently returned from a trip to Iraq, said he hopes both sides of the aisle can hammer out a deal after the veto.
“This is a time with us, together with the Republicans, as President Bush vetoes this, to work across the aisle, making sure that they’re funded, but coming to the right exit strategy that can enhance our security for Iraq and that can be done,” Sestak told FOX News.
Other lawmakers said the president's decision to add more troops in Iraq is built on a faulty premise.
“The Bush administration still believes that Iraqis will rally to a strong, democratic central government that treats everyone equitably. And the surge is designed to buy time for that government to get its act together. But there is no trust within the government, no trust of the government by the people and no capacity by the government to deliver security and services. And there is no prospect that we can build that trust and capacity any time soon,” said Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joe Biden, D-Del., before the veto.
The bill would have set a timetable for withdrawing U.S. combat troops from Iraq either in July or beginning Oct. 1, depending on circumstances in Iraq, with a goal of completing the pullout in six months.
FOX News' Bret Baier, Wendell Goler and The Associated Press contributed to this report.