Bush Threatens Veto of New Iraq Bill

By Michael Abramowitz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 9, 2007; 2:00 PM

MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan., May 9 -- President Bush would veto the new Iraq spending bill being developed by House Democrats because it includes unacceptable language restricting funding, White House press secretary Tony Snow said Wednesday morning.

Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One, Snow said of the bill: "There are restrictions on funding and there are also some of the spending items that were mentioned in the first veto message that are still in the bill."

Bush is visiting Kansas to assess the damage done by a tornado that virtually destroyed the town of Greensburg and sparked criticism about how the deployment of National Guard troops to Iraq had hobbled the state's response to the disaster.

While White House officials have previously made clear their displeasure about the new House bill, this is the first time any administration official threatened another veto. House leaders said there could be a vote as early as this week on the new measure.

Snow expressed hope that the administration and Congress could still work out a deal, noting that Chief of Staff Joshua B. Bolten was supposed to meet Wednesday with Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.)

Bush vetoed a recent Iraq war spending bill because it would have forced the administration to begin withdrawing troops in the next few months. The veto was sustained. House Democratic leaders are now putting together a proposal that would pay for the war through September but come with a different set of conditions: About half of the money would be dependent on Bush reporting to Congress this summer on the Iraqi government's progress toward meeting security goals.

Following that report, Congress would have to vote separately to release the rest of the funds.

Bush's latest veto threat comes as the White House is trying to sustain domestic political support for the war while urging the Iraqi government to do more.

In an unannounced trip to Baghdad Wednesday, Vice President Cheney held meetings with Iraqi and U.S. officials to review the effect new security efforts are having -- including a controversial increase in U.S. troop levels -- on the level of violence around the country.

Few details were released about his initial round of meetings. In a brief press appearance, Cheney said that he and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki "talked about the way ahead in terms of our mutual efforts."

Cheney later told reporters that a war funding bill should not contain conditions that limit "either the flexibility of our commanders on the ground in Iraq or interferes with the president's constitutional prerogatives as commander-in-chief, which is the general principle that we've adhered to and it's one of the reasons the president vetoed the original bill."

Appearing with Cheney at the later news conference, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Ryan C. Crocker, spoke of the importance of Congress passing a funding bill. "Certainly from the political-economic side, just as is the case with the military, our people need the tools to get the job done, and the tools in this case are money," he said. "We really need to get the money out here so we can start making a difference on the streets."

Military officials now say it will be several more months before they can determine whether the "surge" in troops authorized by Bush is helping quell sectarian and other violence. In announcing new troop deployments, top commanders said the increased troop levels may need to last until next spring -- a timetable that could clash with congressional sentiment in favor of a quicker troop withdrawal.

Staff writer Bill Brubaker contributed to this report from Washington.

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