Bush Vetoes Military Spending Bill

By Melanie Arter | July 7, 2008 | 8:32 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - President Bush Tuesday vetoed a military spending bill that sets a deadline for U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq.

"Twelve weeks ago, I asked the Congress to pass an emergency war spending bill that would provide our brave men and women in uniform with the funds and flexibility they need," said Bush.

"Instead, members of the House and the Senate passed a bill that substitutes the opinions of politicians with the judgment of our military commanders. So a few minutes ago, I vetoed the bill," he said.

Bush outlined his reasons for vetoing the bill and expressed his desire to resolve it "as quickly as possible" beginning Wednesday with a bipartisan meeting with congressional leaders.

"First," he said, "the bill would mandate a rigid and artificial deadline for American troops to begin withdrawing from Iraq" starting as early as July 1st, but no later than October 1st "regardless of the situation on the ground."

"It makes no sense to tell the enemy when you plan to start withdrawing. All the terrorists would have to do is mark their calendars and gather their strength and begin plotting how to overthrow the government and take control of the country of Iraq," the president said.

"I believe setting a deadline for withdrawal would demoralize the Iraqi people. It would encourage killers across the broader Middle East and send a signal that America will not keep its commitments. Setting a deadline for withdrawal is setting a date for failure, and that would be irresponsible," he added.

Second, Bush said the bill imposes "impossible conditions" on commanders in combat. "After forcing most of our troops to withdraw, the bill would dictate the terms of which the remaining commanders and troops can engage the enemy," he said.

"That means America's commanders in the middle of a combat zone would have to take fighting directions from politicians 6,000 miles away in Washington, D.C. This is a prescription for chaos and confusion, and we must not impose it on our troops," Bush said.

The bill also contains billions in "non-emergency spending that has nothing to do with fighting the war on terror."

"Congress should debate these spending measures on their own merits and not as a part of an emergency funding bill for our troops," Bush said, pointing out that Democrats don't have the votes to override the veto.

"I recognize that many Democrats saw this bill as an opportunity to make a political statement about their opposition to the war. They sent their message, and now it is time to put politics behind us and support our troops with the funds they need," said Bush.

He noted that one month after Gen. David Petraeus was confirmed, the first set of troop reinforcements were sent to Iraq.

"Not all of these reinforcements have arrived in Baghdad, and as General Petraeus has said, it would be the end of the summer before we can assess the impact of this operation," the president said, adding that Congress should give the Petraeus' plan a chance to work.

Bush also noted some recent "significant" successes in Iraq.

"For example, Iraqi and coalition forces have closed down an al Qaeda car bomb network. They've captured a Shia militia leader implicated in the kidnapping and killing of American soldiers. They've broken up a death squad that had terrorized hundreds of residents in a Baghdad neighborhood," the president said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) Tuesday anticipated Bush's veto Tuesday prior to sending the bill to his desk.

Pelosi called on the president to sign the measure "so that we can refocus on fighting terrorism."

"With a strong commitment to support our troops and to fulfill our promise to our veterans, this legislation honors the sacrifice of our men and women in uniform," Pelosi said at an afternoon press conference, flanked by Reid.

"With a benchmark to hold this Iraqi government accountable, this legislation respects the wishes of the American people to end the Iraq war. I'm pleased to sign this legislation, which passed both houses of Congress with bipartisan support," she said prior to sending the measure to Bush.

Reid pointed out that April was the deadliest month of 2007 for Iraq and one of the deadliest months in the 51 months of fighting. He accused Bush of putting troops "in the middle of a civil war" and said the bill "holds Iraqis accountable for finding political solutions."

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