Bush Invites Democrats For A Meeting

Tuesday, April 10th 2007, 10:41 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Bush on Tuesday invited Democrats to discuss their standoff over a war-spending bill, but he made clear he would not change his position opposing troop withdrawals. The White House bluntly said the meeting would not be a negotiation.

``It's time for them to get the job done, so I'm inviting congressional leaders from both parties _ both political parties _ to meet with me at the White House next week,'' Bush said in a speech to an American Legion audience in Fairfax, Va.

``At this meeting, the leaders in Congress can report on progress on getting an emergency spending bill to my desk,'' Bush said. ``We can discuss the way forward on a bill that is a clean bill, a bill that funds our troops without artificial timetables for withdrawal and without handcuffing our generals on the ground. I'm hopeful we'll see some results soon from the Congress.''

In essence, Bush invited the Democratic leaders of Congress to come hear the stance he has offered for weeks.

He again accused them of shirking their responsibilities.

``We're at war,'' Bush said. ``It is irresponsible for the Democratic leadership in Congress to delay for months on end while our troops in combat are waiting for the funds they need to succeed.''

Bush said the Defense Department will soon send Congress a request to transfer $1.6 billion from other military accounts to cover funding for troops _ a move needed, he said, because lawmakers have delayed his emergency spending request. He warned that continued delays would undermine troop training, slow the repair of equipment and force soldiers to serve longer tours of duty.

Also on Tuesday, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said that he saw no need to set a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from his country. His comments in Japan came a day after tens of thousands of Iraqis took to the streets of two Shiite holy cities, demanding that U.S. forces leave the country.

Bush has asked Congress for more than $100 billion to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan this year. The House and Senate have approved the money, but their bills aim to wind down the war by including timelines for troops to come home _ something Bush won't accept.

The Senate bill would require a U.S. troop exit in Iraq to begin within 120 days, with a completion goal of March 31, 2008. The House bill orders all combat troops out by Sept. 1, 2008.

Bush also opposes the bills because of what he calls pork-barrel spending on matters unrelated to the war.

Earlier Tuesday, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino announced Bush's intention to invite Democrats to talk. Her description immediately raised questions about exactly what the point was.

When a reporter said it sounded like an invitation for Democrats to agree with Bush, Perino said, ``Well, hopefully so.''

Bush has promised to veto any bill that calls for timetables to pull troops out of Iraq.

Perino said Democrats could benefit by accepting Bush's invitation. ``Maybe they need to hear again from the president about why he thinks it is foolish to set arbitrary timetables for withdrawal,'' she said.