WASHINGTON – Democratic Sen. Joe Biden said Sunday he isn't convinced President Bush will use the veto pen he threatened on the Iraq war supplemental spending bill, arguing that to do so would strip U.S. troops of the funds they need and defy voters who want the U.S. out of Iraq.
In the meantime, the military is saying it will run out of money to fight the war if a signed spending bill isn't completed by mid-April.
"I'm not so sure the president is going to veto it. Everybody says that. ... But he'd said that before and he hadn't. So I'm not so sure of that," Biden, D-Del., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told "FOX News Sunday."
"If he's going to veto, he's going to veto a position that the vast majority of the American people hold," he said.
Congress has gone on its spring break without sending Bush the spending package for the Iraq war that he has promised to veto because it puts a timeline for withdrawal from Iraq. He said he is also against the more than $20 million in earmarks stuck in both versions.
Once lawmakers return to Washington, D.C., House and Senate negotiators must hammer out a final version to send to the president. The Senate bill calls for a goal of most U.S. troops to be out of Iraq by the end of March next year while the House wants a withdrawal of combat troops five months after that.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said he wants a final version ready for the president's pen as soon as possible.
"What needs to happen here is the House of Representatives needs to come back a week early. We need to get the conference report on the money for the troops bill down to the president so it can be vetoed," McConnell, R-Ky., said. The Senate returns on April 9; the House on April 16.
"I think our Democratic friends have decided the war is lost. They don't have the courage to vote against the money, which is the only way to end the war. So, instead, what they do is try to make it more difficult for our troops to succeed by saying, 'We'll send them the money, but we're going to put all kinds of strings on it,'" McConnell said.
Lawmakers also disagree over when the money will actually run out.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Peter Pace, has said if funds are delayed past May 15, the military may have to extend current deployments because it won't have the money to ready other troops to replace them.
On Friday, the Congressional Research Service said Army funds will run out by the end of May, but by transferring money from another account the Army can go as late as three weeks into July.
McConnell said that even if the money is rerouted, it will still hurt the military.
"Sure, they could find the money, but it affects other things. It affects readiness. It affects the lives of the troops. Who do you believe here, the Army chief of staff or the Congressional Research Service, which is not an expert in these matters?
"Clearly, the Army chief of staff is correct. Gen. (Peter) Schoomaker sent me a letter just a couple of days ago indicating that severe consequences would follow not having the bill by April, by mid-April, mid to late April," McConnell said.