The White House and Congressional Democrats moved closer to a head-on collision over the so-called "emergency funding" bill for Iraq and Afghanistan today. The positions of both sides were fully reinforced, withacting White House Press Secretary Dana Perino reiterating that the President will not negotiate or compromise on this issue.
"The President will not accept a timetable for withdrawal that forces retreat and forces failure," she told reporters at Tuesday's press briefing.
However, Perino did announce that Bush would invite members of both parties to the White House for a discussion--very specifically not a "negotiation"--on the bill.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) agreed to meet with the president "at any time."
Their written statement also said "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."
For his part, the President, speaking at an American Legion post in Fairfax, Virginia, criticized Congressional Democrats for what he saw as wasting time, since they know he will veto the bill, "just as we're beginning to make progress in Baghdad," he said
According to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the aim of the deadline was to force Iraqi authorities to take increased responsibility of their own security, and to force the President to hold them accountable for their performance.
"American troops are putting their lives at risk every single day, but Iraqi leaders are not willing to take the political risk of governing their own country," he said.
Reid demands a change in that status quo, saying "The president should be leading us in that direction, not threatening to veto funding for our troops unless we rubber-stamp his flawed plan."
Whatever the outcome may be, both sides hold a great deal at stake on the issue and its outcome may prove decisive for the next two years and beyond.