Bush Vetoes Troop Withdrawal Bill

By ANNE FLAHERTY and JENNIFER LOVEN
The Associated Press
Wednesday, May 2, 2007; 1:30 AM

WASHINGTON -- President Bush vetoed legislation to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq Tuesday night in a historic showdown with Congress over whether the unpopular and costly war should end or escalate.

It was a day of high political drama, falling on the fourth anniversary of Bush's "Mission Accomplished" speech declaring that major combat operations had ended in Iraq.

In only the second veto of his presidency, Bush rejected legislation pushed by Democratic leaders that would require the first U.S. combat troops to be withdrawn by Oct. 1 with a goal of a complete pullout six months later.

"This is a prescription for chaos and confusion and we must not impose it on our troops," Bush said in a nationally broadcast statement from the White House. He said the bill would "mandate a rigid and artificial deadline" for troop pullouts, and "it makes no sense to tell the enemy when you plan to start withdrawing."

Democrats accused Bush of ignoring Americans' desire to stop the war, which has claimed the lives of more than 3,350 members of the military.

"The president wants a blank check," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., moments after Bush's appearance. "The Congress is not going to give it to him." She said lawmakers would work with him to find common ground but added that there was "great distance" between them on Iraq.

The legislation amounted to a rare rebuke of a wartime president and an assertion by Democrats that Congress must play a major role in Iraq and the extent of U.S. involvement.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Bush has an obligation to explain his plan for responsibly ending the war.

"If the president thinks by vetoing this bill, he'll stop us from working to change the direction of the war in Iraq, he is mistaken," Reid said.

Lacking the votes to override the president, Democrats have already signaled they intend to approve a replacement bill stripped of the troop withdrawal timetable. Determined to challenge Bush's policy, they are turning their attention to setting goals for the Iraqi government to meet as it struggles to establish a more secure, democratic society.

The White House and congressional Republicans have also called for so-called benchmarks, but only if they don't mandate a troop withdrawal or some other major change in war policy.

Bush will meet with congressional leaders _ Democrats and Republicans alike _ on Wednesday to discuss new legislation.


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