In what the Washington Post called an escalation of "the most serious confrontation between the White House and Congress over war policy in a generation," President George W. Bush "vetoed a $124 billion measure [on May 1] that would have funded overseas military operations but required him to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq as early as July." -- "Democratic congressional leaders cast the veto as willful defiance of the American people," Michael Abramowitz and Peter Baker reported. "'The president wants a blank check,' House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) said just minutes after Bush's statement. 'The Congress is not going to give it to him.'" -- "[A]s the two sides went through yesterday's highly orchestrated proceedings, more Republicans broke with Bush and signaled they want to make a deal," the Post said. -- The New York Times reported that the president signed the veto "using a pen given to him by the father of a fallen marine." -- WSWS's Joe Kay noted in an analysis that "While Bush’s veto is a flagrant spurning of the democratically expressed views of the American people, the Democratic bill that he rejected itself had nothing to do with opposition to the war. Even if it were to be passed, it would maintain a U.S. military presence in Iraq indefinitely." -- "[W]hat the American people want overwhelmingly is an end to the Iraq war — a position that neither the Democrats nor the Republicans support," Kay noted. -- "The charade of the past several days has been an attempt by the Democrats to present themselves as an oppositional force, even as a deal is worked out that will allow the occupation of Iraq to continue." ...
BUSH KEEPS VOW TO VETO WAR FUNDING BILL
By Michael Abramowitz and Peter Baker
** President Says Pullout Deadline Is 'Date for Failure' **
May 2, 2007
President Bush vetoed a $124 billion measure yesterday that would have funded overseas military operations but required him to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq as early as July, escalating the most serious confrontation between the White House and Congress over war policy in a generation.
Bush carried through on his veto threat just after the legislation arrived at the White House, calling the timetable a "prescription for chaos and confusion" that would undercut generals. "Setting a deadline for withdrawal would demoralize the Iraqi people, would encourage killers across the broader Middle East and send a signal that America will not keep its commitments," he said last night. "Setting a deadline for withdrawal is setting a date for failure."
Democratic congressional leaders cast the veto as willful defiance of the American people. "The president wants a blank check," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) said just minutes after Bush's statement. "The Congress is not going to give it to him." Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.) said that "if the president thinks that by vetoing this bill he will stop us from trying to change the direction of this war, he is mistaken."
The clash harked back to the debates of the Vietnam War era, when lawmakers likewise tried to use the power of the purse to end an unpopular conflict.
Since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the government has allocated about $503 billion for Iraq, Afghanistan, and anti-terrorism operations -- with about 70 percent going to the war in Iraq, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Bush has asked for an additional $245 billion for war spending, including the $100 billion in the emergency supplemental bill now at issue.
Democrats passed the legislation on the barest of party-line votes and harbor no hope of overriding Bush's veto. But as the two sides went through yesterday's highly orchestrated proceedings, more Republicans broke with Bush and signaled they want to make a deal.
"Some kind of compromise has to be worked out between the administration and the Democrats," said Sen. George V. Voinovich (Ohio), a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. "That's how it's done. Everybody holds their nose and maybe a couple of times vomits, but you get it done."
Bush plans to host congressional leaders from both parties at the White House this afternoon. Discussion yesterday centered on the idea of revised spending legislation that would abandon the Democrats' withdrawal mandate but cut back nonmilitary U.S. aid to the Iraqi government if it does not meet certain benchmarks for political reconciliation, a proposal advanced by House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.).
Senate Minority Whip Trent Lott (R-Miss.) mentioned that idea yesterday as he warned that neither party can go into the next round of talks with absolute demands for what can and cannot be in the bill. "It's time to stop laying down these guidelines, saying, 'It's got to be this, it's got to be that,'" he said.
Democrats have indicated they see June 1 as a drop-dead date for finishing the bill.
The long-anticipated veto, the second of Bush's presidency, came on a day of dueling events staged by the White House and Congress aimed at securing the political advantage in the debate. Although the bill was approved last week, Democrats waited until yesterday to deliver it to the president so that it would coincide with the fourth anniversary of the day Bush declared an end to major combat operations in Iraq under a banner reading "Mission Accomplished."
Bush, meanwhile, spent the day at the Tampa headquarters of the U.S. Central Command, which oversees the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and received a briefing from Adm. William J. Fallon, the Centcom commander; Gen. David H. Petraeus, the Iraq commander; and Gen. Bryan D. Brown, head of the Special Operations Command. Bush then appeared before military officials from around the world to thank them for their contributions in what he described as a fight against Islamic extremists.
"Our main enemy is al-Qaeda and its affiliates," he said, adding that "failure in Iraq should be unacceptable to the civilized world -- the risks are enormous."
He vetoed the bill shortly after Marine One landed at the White House and then marched before cameras on the state floor to explain why.
Polls suggest the public supports withdrawing troops from Iraq. A survey by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press released last week showed that 59 percent of Americans want a withdrawal schedule in the spending bill, although a *New York Times*-CBS News poll showed that a similar majority wants the war funded even if Bush does not accept timetables.
But such polls have little resonance with Bush these days. "He is convinced that he is doing the right thing," said Fred S. Zeidman, a longtime friend from Texas who spoke to Bush before a recent speech at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. "He said to me he is not going to allow public opinion to interfere with what he thinks is right for the United States."
Even if an agreement can be reached on the current spending bill, Democrats have served notice that they will try to attach limits on the war to later appropriations. While White House aides said that they hope for a compromise, they also indicated that the president has no intention of accepting significant restrictions on his ability to prosecute the war.
"I am sure there is room for discussion about elements of a supplemental, but I don't think there is room to compromise the fundamental elements of a commander-in-chief function," a senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe White House thinking, said in a recent interview. The goal is to give the U.S. military and Iraqi officials a chance to make progress on the ground, and the official said he is "hopeful that there is more than enough time" for Bush's new strategy to succeed.
--Staff writer Jonathan Weisman contributed to this report.
BUSH VETOES BILL TYING IRAQ FUNDS TO EXIT
By Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Jeff Zeleny
New York Times
May 2, 2007
WASHINGTON -- President Bush vetoed a $124 billion war spending bill on Tuesday, setting up a second round in his long battle with Congressional Democrats who are determined to use the financing measure to force the White House to shift course in Iraq.
The veto was only the second of Mr. Bush’s presidency. In a six-minute televised speech from the White House, the president called the measure a “prescription for chaos and confusion,” and said, as he has for weeks, that he could not sign it because it contained timetables for troop withdrawal.
“Setting a deadline for withdrawal is setting a date for failure, and that would be irresponsible,” Mr. Bush said. He said the measure would “impose impossible conditions on our commanders in combat” by forcing them to “take fighting directions from politicians 6,000 miles away in Washington, D.C.”
The veto added new punctuation to a major war powers clash between Democrats in Congress -- buoyed what they regard as a mandate in last November’s elections and seeking to force an end to the fighting in Iraq -- and a president working to defy what he regards as an incursion on his authority as commander in chief.
Democrats concede they do not have enough votes to override the veto. But, speaking in the Capitol shortly after Mr. Bush’s remarks, the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi of California, and the Senate Democratic leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, said they would not be deterred from pushing the president as hard as they could to bring the troops home.
“If the president thinks by vetoing this bill he will stop us from working to change the direction of the war in Iraq, he is mistaken,” Mr. Reid said. He added, “Now he has an obligation to explain his plan to responsibly end this war.”
The fight has been brewing for nearly three months, ever since Mr. Bush sent Congress his request for emergency financing for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, including money to support his troop buildup. The next chapter begins Wednesday, when Congressional leaders are expected to meet Mr. Bush at the White House to open negotiations on a new bill. They are expected to look for ways to preserve the benchmarks for Iraqi progress that were included in the initial bill while eliminating the timetables for troop withdrawal that Mr. Bush has emphatically rejected.
Several Republican leaders said Tuesday that they were likely to support such benchmarks, and White House aides said Tuesday that Mr. Bush, who has supported goals and benchmarks for the Iraqi government, might back such a measure -- but only if the benchmarks are nonbinding.
Mr. Bush issued the veto from the Oval Office at about 5:30 p.m., using a pen given to him by the father of a fallen marine. It came just hours after Democrats had themselves staged an unusual signing ceremony in the Capitol, timed to coincide with the four-year anniversary of the so-called Mission Accomplished speech, when Mr. Bush stood on an aircraft carrier and declared that major combat operations in Iraq had ended.
Mr. Bush spent much of the day in Tampa, Fla., at MacDill Air Force Base, headquarters of the United States Central Command, which coordinates Iraq operations. While he did not directly address the Iraq spending bill there, he warned that an early exit could turn Iraq into “a cauldron of chaos.”
Even as the political stagecraft played out on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue -- and in Florida -- on Tuesday, there were signs that Republicans and Democrats might be able to compromise on establishing benchmarks for the Iraqi government to show progress. But it remained an open question whether broad agreement was possible within Congress, much less with the White House, about whether to insist on consequences if those benchmarks were not met.
“There are a number of Republicans who do think that some kind of benchmarks, properly crafted, would actually be helpful,” said Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader.
Representative Roy Blunt of Missouri, the Republican whip, did not reject the concept of establishing benchmarks but said any hard-and-fast timetables or deadlines would be resisted. “Our members will not accept restraint on the military,” Mr. Blunt said.
Financing for the troops is likely to run out by June. With the Democrats still wrestling over what approach to take, some are discussing passing two bills, one to provide short-term financing for the troops, the other to deal with questions of Iraq policy. Throughout the day, Democrats lined up to deliver floor speeches observing the fourth anniversary of the president’s speech on the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln. At the front of the House chamber, Democrats positioned a blown-up photograph of Mr. Bush standing on the carrier deck on May 1, 2003.
Aides to the president were openly angry about the reminders, and the Democrats’ unusual legislative signing ceremony.
“It’s a trumped-up political stunt,” Dana Perino, the deputy White House press secretary, told reporters traveling aboard Air Force One. Others grumbled privately that Congress had sent plenty of bills to Mr. Bush without such pomp and circumstance.
“We’ve got the lights, we’ve got the characters, we’ve got the action for some fine political theater in the House of Representatives today,” said Representative Lynn A. Westmoreland, Republican of Georgia. “It’s time for the majority to take off their costumes and exit stage left. We owe it to our nation and our troops to see the ending of this story.”
In Tampa, Mr. Bush made his case for the spending bill without ever specifically mentioning it. After huddling with American military commanders, including Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top commander in Iraq, Mr. Bush addressed a conference of representatives from some of the roughly 90 countries that the United States considers allies in the global campaign against terrorism.
“Failure in Iraq should be unacceptable to the civilized world,” Mr. Bush said. “The risks are enormous.” He added that there were “signs of hope” even though the troop buildup was in its early stages.
The veto, announced by Mr. Bush at 6:10 p.m., just before the network news broadcasts began, was quickly seized on by Democratic groups.
Americans Against Escalation in Iraq, a group financed, in part, through labor union money, presented a television advertisement criticizing the White House and Congressional Republicans. The group also planned a series of rallies across the country. In the Capitol, several Democrats and Republicans said they were eager to find common ground on the Iraq spending bill and bring an end to the bitter fight.
“Unfortunately, people are getting locked down in their respective positions,” said Senator Olympia Snowe, Republican of Maine. “The White House wants to have open-ended latitude on how to conduct a war, but I don’t think that is simply an option at this point.”
--Carl Hulse contributed reporting.
News & analysis
FOLLOWING BUSH VETO, DEMOCRATS PREPARE WAR-SPENDING BILL WITH NO TIMELINE
By Joe Kay
World Socialist Web Site
May 2, 2007
U.S. President George Bush vetoed the $124 billion bill to fund the U.S. occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan Tuesday, rejecting provisions of the bill calling for a partial withdrawal of some U.S. troops from Iraq.
Democratic Party leaders have already begun circulating drafts of a bill that will fully fund the Iraq war, without the restrictions that the White House opposes.
In a statement following the veto, Bush voiced his contempt for the views of the majority of the American population who oppose the war in Iraq. He said that the legislation “substitutes the opinion of politicians for the judgment of military commanders.” This statement, which has become a major talking point for administration officials, amounts to the insistence that the U.S. elections, in which the American people expressed their opposition to the war, will have no impact on war policy.
In defiance of the will of the American people, the escalation of the war, in which tens of thousands of more troops have been sent to Iraq, will continue. Bush said that it will be the end of the summer before an assessment of the consequences of the troop increase can be made. In other words, these additional troops will remain in Iraq until at least that time, probably much longer.
To justify the continued occupation of Iraq, Bush again raised the specter of September 11, claiming that most of the recent violence in Iraq was caused by Al Qaeda. This is an enemy that “everyone agrees we should be fighting,” he said, adding that if the war in Iraq was ended, Al Qaeda forces in Iraq would carry out another terrorist attack in the United States.
While Bush’s veto is a flagrant spurning of the democratically expressed views of the American people, the Democratic bill that he rejected itself had nothing to do with opposition to the war. Even if it were to be passed, it would maintain a US military presence in Iraq indefinitely.
In the course of his remarks, Bush also indicated that he understood the Democrats had no intention of ending the occupation of Iraq. Democrats “have sent their message and now it is time to put politics behind us” and pass a bill without any timeline. In other words, the Democrats need to end their posturing as opponents of the war. “Here in Washington we have our differences on the way forward for Iraq,” he said, “and we will debate them openly . . . but surely we can agree that we need to get our troops this funding.”
Indeed, this is something upon which both the Democrats and the Republicans do agree. Bush’s veto followed a ceremony by Democratic leaders held before sending the legislation to the White House. In their remarks, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid again reiterated their basic commitment to the war in Iraq and U.S. military strategy in the Middle East.
Pelosi praised the bill’s “strong commitment to support our troops.” Reid repeated his statement that “a change of course in Iraq” is necessary, making clear that he favors a different strategy for U.S. domination of the country, not the withdrawal of U.S. troops. “A veto means denying the troops the resources and the strategy they need,” he declared.
Reid said that the bill “holds Iraqis accountable for providing political solutions” and “redeploys our troops out of an intractable civil war.” This was a reference to the position of many Democrats that U.S. troops should play a less active role in the urban centers, retreating to military bases where they can guard key U.S. interests, including oil, while intervening when necessary to crush resistance.
Reid’s reference to “holding Iraqis accountable” has become a theme for Democrats, who have sought to pin responsibility for the situation in Iraq on the Iraqi government, rather than the American occupation. They want the Bush administration to increase pressure on the government of Nouri al-Maliki to crack down on opponents of the American occupation and pass laws favorable to American corporations.
In their brief remarks, both Reid and Pelosi stressed their commitment to the “war on terror” as a justification for U.S. military action in the Middle East and Central Asia. Reid said that if the bill passed, then the two parties “can refocus our full attention on fighting the war on terror.” Pelosi referred to the bill itself as the “Global War on Terror supplemental”.
These statements are indications of concern within sections of the ruling élite that the crisis of the U.S. occupation of Iraq is undermining the ability of the American military to intervene elsewhere. Democrats have criticized Bush administration strategy in Iraq for tying down U.S. troops and making it more difficult to threaten Iran, North Korea, or other countries.
Nevertheless, both Reid and Pelosi sought to present the bill to continue funding the war as a fulfillment of the desires expressed by the American people in the November elections. Pelosi claimed that the bill, which would provide non-binding restrictions on the Bush administration and would leave tens of thousands of troops in Iraq, “respects the wishes of the American people to end the Iraq war.”
Following Bush’s veto, Pelosi read a statement in which she sought to downplay even the question of a limited timeline for withdrawal, declaring that the American people voted for “benchmarks, guidelines, standards.”
In fact, what the American people want overwhelmingly is an end to the Iraq war -- a position that neither the Democrats nor the Republicans support.
There has been a strong element of play-acting in this entire process. Before the bill was passed in Congress, it was already clear that it would be vetoed and the Democrats would then provide the administration with a funding bill without even nominal constraints. The charade of the past several days has been an attempt by the Democrats to present themselves as an oppositional force, even as a deal is worked out that will allow the occupation of Iraq to continue.
An article in the Washington Times on Tuesday reported that Reid is courting support from Republican senators for a new bill that Bush will sign. “Senior Democratic aides say that although House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is not similarly talking to Republicans about a post-veto agreement,” the newspaper reported, “she privately acknowledges that eventually ‘the money will get to the troops without timetables.’”
House Democrats will make a show of attempting to override the veto, but they do not have enough votes to do so. Given a failure in the House, the Senate is not expected to even make an attempt at an override.
On Wednesday afternoon, Bush is scheduled to meet with congressional leaders of both parties, including Reid and Pelosi, to work out some agreement on the war-funding resolution. Bush indicated on Monday that he considered the prospects for a resolution to be good. “I believe that there’s a lot of Democrats that understand that we need to get the money to the troops as soon as possible,” he said, “and so I’m optimistic we can get something done in a positive way”.
A likely compromise will see the removal of any reference to a timeline, while leaving in place “benchmarks” for the Iraqi government to follow. These benchmarks are the same as those proposed earlier by Bush. The most important of these for the American ruling élite is the passage of a law that will open up the country’s oil resources to international oil companies.