During a speech to an American Legion post in Fairfax, VA, President Bush made an offer to the leadership of both political parties to come to the White House and discuss the impasse over funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The president said, “The United States Senate has come back from its spring recess today. The House will return next week. When it comes to funding our troops, we have no time to waste. It’s time for them to get the job done. So I’m inviting congressional leaders from both parties — both political parties — to meet with me at the White House next week. At this meeting, the leaders in Congress can report on progress on getting an emergency spending bill to my desk. We can discuss the way forward on a bill that is a clean bill: a bill that funds our troops without artificial timetables for withdrawal, and without handcuffing our generals on the ground.”

Bush continued, “I’m hopeful we’ll see some results soon from the Congress. I know we have our differences over the best course in Iraq. These differences should not prevent us from getting our troops the funding they need without withdrawal and without giving our commanders flexibility.” Democratic leaders immediately rejected the president’s offer after the White House made it very clear that the meeting would not be a negotiating session. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Harry Reid issued a joint statement that accused the president of playing politics with the war.

In part the statement said, “The President is demanding that we renew his blank check for a war without end.  Despite the fact that the President persists in trying to score political points at the expense of our troops, congressional Democrats have repeatedly reached out in the spirit of cooperation. We renew our request to work with him to produce a bipartisan bill that provides our troops and our veterans with every penny they need, but in turn, demands accountability.”

The two top Democrats said that they would be willing to meet with the president anytime to negotiate about Iraq. “The American people want the President and the Congress to work together to bring a responsible end to the war in Iraq.  Congressional Democrats are willing to meet with the President at any time, but we believe that any discussion of an issue as critical as Iraq must be accomplished by conducting serious negotiations without any preconditions.  Our goal should be to produce an Iraq supplemental bill that both fully funds our troops and gives them a strategy for success,” the statement said.

I am wondering what a sit down could possibly accomplish if the White House is unwilling to negotiate. It seems to me like this is a giant waste of time. Neither side looks ready to budge on the issue of the troop withdrawal language in the funding bill. I am tired of President Bush trying to characterize the Congress as not doing their duty, just because they are sending him a funding bill with conditions attached that he doesn’t like.

It is the duty of the Congress to pass a funding bill, not a funding bill that the president likes. If Bush doesn’t like it, then veto it. The reality is that most members of Congress do not want to cut off funding for the troops, so I look for Democrats to keep playing this game for a while, but to eventually give the president the bill that he wants. For the Democrats, it is all about ratcheting up the political pressure to get the president to change his Iraq strategy. If this attempt doesn’t work, they will be back with another in a few weeks. That is way this is going to be done, until the Iraq war is over.

Text of President Bush’s speech

Text of Reid/Pelosi statement

Jason Easley is the editor of the politics zone at 411mania.com.  His news column The Political Universe appears on Tuesdays and Fridays at www.411mania.com/politics

Jason can also be heard every Sunday afternoon at 1:30 pm (ET) as the host of The Political Universe Radio Show at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/thepoliticaluniverse blog radio

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