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Iraq Transition

White House issues veto threat on new Iraq funding bill

Story Highlights

• White House says president would veto bill that funds war in stages
• Bush hosts "frank" meeting with House Republicans to prevent defections
• Gates: Short-term spending bill would cause "significant cost and disruption"
• Administration wants $95 billion to pay costs of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush would veto the latest war spending bill -- one that would fund the war in stages dependent on the Iraqi government's progress -- the White House said Wednesday.

Democratic leaders of the House of Representatives have proposed a short-term spending bill that would give the Bush administration about half the money it seeks for the war up front.

Congress would vote on allotting the second half of the funds in July, after reviewing a report from the president on a series of benchmarks that measure the Iraqi government's progress.

The bill comes in response to the May 1 veto of a bill that called for U.S. troops to be out of Iraq by March 2008.

Unlike the previous bill, this one does not include a date for withdrawal.

But Defense Secretary Robert Gates told a Senate Appropriations subcommittee that a short-term bill would require a precision in managing money "not normally associated with the Department of Defense." (Watch Gates lower expectations for the troop increase Video)

He said to set up service and supply contracts for a two-month period "would add significant cost and disruption," and a possible vote against continued funding "would have dramatic consequences," including the inability of the Pentagon to meet its payroll.

The Bush administration wants more than $95 billion to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

White House wants funding through September

White House spokesman Tony Snow said the administration wants to see a bill that funds the war through September, the end of the budget year.

"Our commitment is clear: We want the troops funded through the fiscal year," he said. "And we are working with members of both houses and we have made our views known."

Asked whether Bush would veto the measure as currently proposed, Snow said, "Yes."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused the White House of choosing "confrontation over cooperation" after his earlier veto.

"Our bill will fully fund the troops, honor our commitment to our veterans, hold the Iraqi government accountable and end the war," said Pelosi. "The president's only response to our good-faith efforts is another veto threat."

Democratic leaders, meanwhile, have agreed to allow a vote first on a separate measure that would call for troop withdrawal in 180 days, according to a Democratic leadership aide and a spokesman for Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Massachusetts, a self-described anti-war liberal and author of the measure. (Watch how voters' passions are reflected in a new poll Video)

The hope among House Democratic leaders is that Democrats, given the opportunity to vote first on McGovern's measure -- which is expected to fail -- would then vote in favor of the legislation proposing the war be paid for in stages.

Poll: Most Americans disapprove of veto

A CNN poll out Tuesday found a majority of Americans disapprove of Bush's first veto, and 65 percent expressed opposition to the war.

But Bush said the $124 billion measure, which included additional money for veterans health care and domestic programs, would have set "a date for failure" by calling on U.S. combat troops to leave Iraq by March 2008. (Full story)

White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten has led talks with congressional leaders on a new bill, which the administration says is urgently needed. He held a 40-minute meeting Wednesday with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky.

Reid said the White House did not present any concrete proposals in that session. "We're talking principles is all," he said.

Most Republicans have stood with Bush in his battle with Congress, but some top GOP lawmakers have begun to question what would happen if the current push to stabilize Baghdad and its surrounding provinces fails to show the expected results by fall.

"It's a natural time, I think, in the calendar," House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said on CNN.

Boehner said he hopes the escalated levels of U.S. troops will be able to quell Baghdad's sectarian warfare to the point where Iraq's shaky government "will have the room that it needs" to reach a political settlement.

Boehner said he opposes the Democratic plan for a short-term funding bill.

"Treating our young men and women in uniform like kids on a monthly allowance, I think, demeans our troops," he said.

Vice President Dick Cheney made an unannounced visit to Baghdad on Wednesday, meeting with U.S. officials and with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. Cheney called for a redoubling of efforts by Iraq's political leaders, according to a senior administration official. (Behind the Scenes)

Bush hosts 'candid' GOP meeting

A senior GOP lawmaker told CNN that Boehner brought a group of 11 Republican House members to the White House on Tuesday to "speak directly with the president" about Iraq, and the "members were matter-of-fact about what they said to him."

A House GOP leadership aide told CNN that the meeting was a "proactive step" by the White House to meet with lawmakers who had reservations about Bush's troop increase to make sure they would not support the new Democratic proposal to pay for the war in stages.

White House spokesman Tony Snow, who attended the meeting along with other high-level administration officials, told CNN that "everybody was completely candid" in telling Bush about deep frustration in the party about the situation in Iraq.

Another source who attended the meeting said lawmakers "were candid and frank and said they needed results by September because their constituents were worried."

But Rep. Mark Kirk, R-Illinois, told Bush that without positive results soon in Iraq, his district will be prepared for defeat, the source said.

Another source who attended the meeting told CNN that one of the lawmakers also told Bush that the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, should be the one to provide updates about progress in Iraq because the administration's credibility is diminished.


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President Bush would veto a war spending bill that would fund the war in stages, the White House said Wednesday.

SPECIAL REPORT

• Interactive: Who's who in Iraq
• Interactive: Sectarian divide
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