President Bush voiced support for the $120 billion war spending bill scheduled to pass Congress Thursday, winning a political victory against Democrats' moves to force a timetable for Iraq withdrawal into the measure.
"By voting for this bill, members of both parties can show our troops and the Iraqis and the enemy that our country will support our service men and women in harm's way," Bush said in a Rose Garden news conference.
In exchange for dropping the time line, Bush agreed to support some $17 billion in spending added by Democrats, including $6.4 billion in hurricane relief and $3 billion in agricultural assistance.
Associated Press reports that some Democrats said they were disappointed with the deal.
"I hate this agreement," said Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., chairman of the Appropriations Committee.
Obey said the deal was the best that Democrats could do manage because "the White House is in a cloud somewhere in terms of understanding the realities in Iraq."
President Bush also said Thursday that this summer will be a critical time for his Iraq troop buildup strategy and predicted that fighting could get heavy in the coming weeks before things improved. He said the last troops of the build-up should be in place in mid-June and that Petraeus would make a report on the impact of his strategy to Congress in the fall.
“I would like to see us in a different configuration at some point in Iraq. However it's going to require taking control of the capital,” he said.
The revised spending bill will include a number of performance goals for the Iraqi government to target, and President Bush is supposed to make the first progress report to Congress on July 13.
Though the legislation threatens to withhold US financial assistance if the Iraqis fail to show certain economic, political, and economic progress, President Bush would have the right to waive those penalties, making the benchmarks non-binding.
"It's going to be hard work for this young government," he said. "After all, the Iraqis are recovering from decades of brutal dictatorship."
Non-binding Benchmarks for the Iraqi Government
Sec. 1330. The President shall transmit to the Congress a report in classified and unclassified form, on or before July 13, 2007, detailing--
(1) the progress the Government of Iraq has made in--
(A) giving the United States Armed Forces and Iraqi Security Forces the authority to pursue all extremists, including Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias;
(B) delivering necessary Iraqi Security Forces for Baghdad and protecting such Forces from political interference;
(C) intensifying efforts to build balanced security forces throughout Iraq that provide even-handed security for all Iraqis;
(D) ensuring that Iraq's political authorities are not undermining or making false accusations against members of the Iraqi Security Forces;
(E) eliminating militia control of local security;
(F) establishing a strong militia disarmament program;
(G) ensuring fair and just enforcement of laws;
(H) establishing political, media, economic, and service committees in support of the Baghdad Security Plan;
(I) eradicating safe havens;
(J) reducing the level of sectarian violence in Iraq; and
(K) ensuring that the rights of minority political parties in the Iraqi Parliament are protected; and
(2) whether the Government of Iraq has--
(A) enacted a broadly accepted hydro-carbon law that equitably shares oil revenues among all Iraqis;
(B) adopted legislation necessary for the conduct of provincial and local elections, taken steps to implement such legislation, and set a schedule to conduct provincial and local elections;
(C) reformed current laws governing the de-Baathification process to allow for more equitable treatment of individuals affected by such laws;
(D) amended the Constitution of Iraq consistent with the principles contained in article 137 of such Constitution; and
(E) allocated and begun expenditure of $10 billion in Iraqi revenues for reconstruction projects, including delivery of essential services, on an equitable basis.
The Complete Bill: 110_hr2206.pdf
There a vast number of difference requests (including a different set of demands for accountability) in the March 20th version: HR_1591_RH.pdf