Bush Presses Dems To Pass Iraq War Funding

GENERIC George W. Bush, Congress, Capitol, Iraq, Saddam Hussein
CBS/AP
President Bush sternly called on Democrats to approve money to fund the Iraq war "without strings and without delay" before leaving town for the Christmas holidays, something congressional leaders have already indicated they will not do.

After more failed attempts to pass legislation ordering troops home from Iraq, Democrats have said they plan to sit on Bush's $196 billion request for war spending until next year.

Bush said this will push the Pentagon toward an accounting nightmare and affect the military's ability to do its job protecting the country.

"The American people expect us to work together to support our troops. That's what they want," he said, after spending several hours meeting at the Pentagon with military leaders. "They do not want the government to create needless uncertainty for those defending our country and uncertainty for their families. They do not want disputes in Washington to undermine our troops in Iraq just as they're seeing clear signs of success."

Democrats had proposed paying for several months of combat instead of a full year as Bush wants. But their bills also would have ordered troop withdrawals from Iraq. With such legislation failing to secure enough votes, Democratic leaders say they won't send the president a war spending bill this year at all.

In response, Pentagon officials began saying that the military will have to take drastic steps next month if it doesn't get the money soon. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has ordered the Army and Marine Corps to begin planning for a series of expected cutbacks, including civilian layoffs, termination of contracts and reduced operations at bases.

Democrats and the Pentagon agree the military has until about March before it runs out of money.

"Congress limits how much money can be moved from one account to the other," Bush said. "Secretary Gates has already notified Congress that he will transfer money from accounts to fund other activities of the military services to pay for current operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and no more money can be moved."

The standoff between Democrats and the White House plays well with a fiercely anti-war Democratic support base. But it gives Bush an opportunity to hammer Democrats for not supporting troops, which is what he did during his Pentagon visit.

"Let us tell our men and women in uniform that we will give them what they need to succeed in their missions, without strings and without delay," Bush said. "I ask Congress to provide this essential funding to our troops before the members leave on their Christmas vacation."