A bipartisan group of congressional lawmakers met today with President Bush at the White House to discuss the impasse that has developed over the funding bill for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The House and the Senate have each already passed funding bills that include a provision to withdraw the troops from Iraq. President Bush has promised to veto any bill that contains any conditions relating to the deployment of troops.

The much discussed meeting lasted for only an hour, and it would appear did not solve anything. White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said at today’s press briefing that, “the President has said he will not accept a bill that has an artificial timetable — time line, deadline for withdrawal, a forced retreat, a legislative failure for our troops. He’s not going to do that for our troops, and he’s not going to do it to the Iraqis, or for the region, and for the safety of the American public.”

In remarks after the meeting, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) was still trying to persuade the president to sign the bill. “We believe he must search his soul, his conscience and find out what is the right thing for the American people. I believe signing this bill will do that. It gives the troops more than he’s asked for and leaves the troops there for considerable periods of time with some goals and benchmarks that have been called for by the American people, the Iraq Study Group and many, many military,” Reid said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said, “We came here in a spirit of hope, recognizing that this is a historic opportunity for the executive branch, the president and the Congress to work together to wind down this war, and ensure the security of our country and the stability of the region. We cannot give the president a blank check, but we are willing to work with him to come to an agreement,” she said. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) said that the meeting changed nothing. “It was a very polite meeting. The real issue … is whether we’re going to agree to a surrender date and that’s not going to happen,” Boehner said.

So they are no closer to a resolution then they were before the meeting. This situation is interesting because popular opinion is strongly with the Democrats, but the vast majority of congressional Democrats don’t have the stomach to cut off funding to the troops. Dick Cheney was saying on television this weekend that he thought the Democrats would give in eventually. What’s going on here is that the White House is playing a game of chicken with the Democrats, and the people caught in the middle are the troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Too many congressional Democrats, including the major candidates for the party’s nomination, do not want the funding cut off, so I believe that the pressure that will cause the Democratic leadership to cave will come from within the party, not the White House. In the end, the troops should get their funding, and the White House will probably get what they want.

White House Press Briefing

AP story on the meeting

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

Be Sociable, Share!