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White House Nixes Democratic Offer On Iraq Funding Bill

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Democratic congressional leaders on Friday offered the first concessions in a fight with President Bush over a spending bill for Iraq, but the White House turned them down.

The Democrats, in a meeting with Bush's top aides on Capitol Hill, said they would strip from a war spending bill billions of dollars in domestic spending that the White House had opposed. They also pledged to give Bush authority to waive compliance with a timetable to pull combat troops out of Iraq.

But no agreement emerged.

``To say I was disappointed in the meeting is an understatement,'' said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

White House chief of staff Joshua Bolten, who rejected the deal, said any timetable on the war would undermine the nation's efforts in Iraq.

``We consider that to be not a significant distinction,'' he said. ``Whether waivable or not, timelines send the wrong signal.''

At stake is the more than $90 billion the president says is needed to cover the costs of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan through September. The Democratic-controlled Congress on May 1 sent Bush a bill that would have funded the war but also would have demanded that troops start coming home Oct. 1.

Bush swiftly rejected that bill. Unable to override his veto, Democrats have been trying to find a way to pass a new bill by Memorial Day that funds the troops but still challenges Bush's Iraq policy.

Bush has said he is open to setting standards for the Iraqi government to meet, but has not said whether he would accept consequences if Baghdad fails.

Pelosi, D-Calif., said negotiations with the White House were not dead, but she and Reid made it clear they would proceed this weekend on their own in drafting a new bill they could be widely supported in Congress. The leaders said the plan remained to send Bush a bill by the Memorial Day recess.

``It is clear that the difference between the president and Democrats is accountability,'' said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. But ultimately, she later added, ``Our troops will be funded.''

Also attending the meeting on Capitol Hill was Stephen Hadley, the president's national security adviser, and Rob Portman, the White House budget director, as well as Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Reps. Jerry Lewis and David Obey. Lewis, R-Calif., is the top Republican on the House Appropriations Committee and Obey, D-Wis., is chairman.
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