President Bush sought to shore up the GOP minority in Congress for a showdown with Democrats over Iraq, surrounding himself with Republican allies at the White House on Thursday to bolster his veto threat on anti-war legislation.
“We stand united in saying loud and clear that when we’ve got a troop in harm’s way, we expect that troop to be fully funded,” Bush said on the White House’s North Portico, “and we got commanders making tough decisions on the ground, we expect there to be no strings on our commanders.”
“We expect the Congress to be wise about how they spend the people’s money,” he said.
Bush’s brief statement came within moments of a roll call vote in the Senate on legislation ordering combat troops home from Iraq. Bush’s remarks followed an unusual morning gathering in the East Room to which all House GOP lawmakers were invited â€” the first time this has happened, the White House said.
In a letter to Bush, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid countered: “This Congress is taking the responsible course and responding to needs that have been ignored by your administration and the prior Congress.”
Perino said the president respects the role of Congress â€” and Congress should respect his.
“I think the founders of our nation had great foresight in realizing that it would be better to have one commander in chief managing a war, rather than 535 generals on Capitol Hill trying to do the same thing,” Perino said. “They’re mandating failure here.”
The Senate was expected on Thursday to pass a $122 billion bill that would require Bush to start bringing home an unspecified number of troops within four months, with a nonbinding goal of ceasing combat operations as of March 31, 2008.
The final vote on the bill comes after the Senate agreed 50-48 to uphold the withdrawal language, and the House passed similar legislation. The House last week approved a more sweeping measure, including a mandatory withdrawal deadline for all combat troops before September 2008.
The two sides still need to settle their differences and approve a final conference bill. But Democrats said the recent votes guaranteed the president would be handed a measure imposing some sort of timetable on Iraq.
“This war without end has gone on far too long and we’re here to end it,” Pelosi said.