WASHINGTON – President Bush appealed to Congress on Saturday to give him real cash for the war, not just a pledge to fund the troops.
"A congressional promise — even if enacted — does not pay the bills," Bush said in his weekly radio address. "It is time for Congress to provide our troops with actual funding."
The broadcast is the president's latest shot in a battle the White House is having with Congress over spending bills.
The Senate on Friday passed a defense policy bill for the 2008 budget year. It authorizes $696 billion in military spending, including $189 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But it does not actually send any money to the Pentagon.
"Congress has had plenty of time to consider the emergency funds our troops need," Bush said. "Time is running out, and Pentagon officials say that continued delay in funding our troops will soon begin to have a damaging impact on the operations of our military.
"Congress' responsibility is clear: They must deliver vital funds for our troops — and they must do it before they leave for Christmas," Bush said.
Next week, Democrats are expected to let Senate Republicans attach tens of billions of dollars for the Iraq war to a $500 billion-plus government-wide spending bill. That move would be in exchange for GOP support on a huge spending measure that would fund the government.
The war money would not be tied to troop withdrawals, as Democrats want. But it would let Democrats wrap up their long-unfinished budget work and go on vacation before Christmas. It also would spare them from being criticized by Bush during the holiday recess for leaving work without providing money for the troops.
Without the money, the Defense Department said it would start delivering pink slips to thousands of civilians this month.
Congress passed just one spending bill before the end of the fiscal year in October, so most of the government is being run under a temporary continuing resolution.
Congressional negotiators are working to cut hundreds of federal programs, big and small, as they fashion the catchall government funding bill.
But while agreement with the White House remained elusive, negotiations went ahead on the assumptions that Democrats would largely accept Bush's strict budget for domestic programs and that he would ease up a bit if additional funding for Iraq is approved.
In the meantime, the House passed a bill to keep the federal government open for another week to give negotiators time to work on the omnibus spending bill, pass it in both the House and Senate and then adjourn for the year.