President Bush reminded the Democratic Congress of his power and intent to veto any bill that would commit the US to a date for withdrawal of combat troops in a prepared statement to the media at the White House on Monday.
"Congress needs to pass an emergency war spending bill without strings and without further delay," Bush said, speaking to the press with a backdrop of members of veterans organizations and soldiers' family members standing behind him. Without it, "the readiness of our troops will suffer."
"Listen, I understand Republicans and Democrats in Washington have differences over the best course in Iraq," Bush said. "That's healthy. That's normal, and we should debate those differences. But our troops should not be caught in the middle."
Bush's statement came in advance of a meeting with Congressional leaders Wednesday, during which Bush expects to forge a compromise with the one major sticking point concerning the issue of a timeline for withdrawal.
"That's what we're supposed to do -- we're supposed to talk out our differences," Bush said. "I'm looking forward to the meeting. I hope the Democratic leadership will drop its unreasonable demand for a precipitous withdrawal."
"I am willing to discuss any way forward that does not hamstring our troops, set an artificial timetable for withdrawal, and spend billions on projects not related to the war," Bush said.
Both chambers of Congress back timelines for troop withdrawal as a condition of the additional war funding, though the House version requires all U.S. combat troops to withdraw from Iraq by Sept. 1, 2008, and the Senate's approach would begin troop withdrawals this year with a goal, not a mandate, that combat troops leave by March 31, 2008.
The House and Senate Democrats are expected to hammer out a compromise version to forward to the White House for signing this week, though President Bush has vowed to veto any bill that includes a date for withdrawal.