Bush, Reid Exchange Attacks Over Support For U.S. Troops in Iraq

By William Branigin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 21, 2007

President Bush called on Congress yesterday to pass new legislation to fund the war in Iraq and denounced lawmakers who say his strategy has failed.

Reading a statement in the White House Rose Garden after meeting with veterans and military families who support his war policy, Bush also urged Congress "to give our troops time to carry out our new strategy in Iraq," which he said has produced "important successes."

In response, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) accused Bush of "hypocrisy" and said Congress needs no lectures from him about supporting American troops.

The remarks came after the White House and Army Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the No. 2 U.S. commander in Iraq, clarified Odierno's statement Thursday that he needed more time beyond a September deadline to do a "good assessment" of the administration's troop-buildup strategy. White House spokesman Tony Snow and Odierno said the comment should not be interpreted as an effort to postpone the reporting requirement.

Bush's statement signaled the renewal of a fierce debate between the administration and opposing lawmakers over funding of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The $120 billion approved this May by Congress after intense wrangling will run out on Sept. 30, the end of the federal fiscal year, and the president wants Congress to act quickly to provide funds for fiscal 2008.

Bush met with 10 members of military support organizations that back his Iraq policy. He said they had conveyed "a message that all of us in Washington need to hear: It is time to rise above partisanship, stand behind our troops in the field, and give them everything they need to succeed."

He said Congress "has failed to act" on a comprehensive defense spending request for 2008 that would fund upgraded equipment and a military pay raise.

"Instead, the Democratic leaders chose to have a political debate on a precipitous withdrawal of our troops from Iraq," Bush said.

Reid, the Democratic leader in the Senate, replied in a statement: "It is the height of hypocrisy for a president whose administration has sent our brave men and women into combat without the proper equipment, recuperation time, training or strategy for success to lecture Congress about supporting the troops."

Bush took no questions from reporters after delivering his statement. Participating in the White House meeting were members of four groups: Families United for Our Troops and Their Mission, Military Families Voice of Victory, Troops Need You and Vets for Freedom.

Earlier, the White House said it has not changed the September deadline for assessing progress in Iraq, despite Odierno's comment Thursday that he needed at least 45 more days to accurately chart trends.

Odierno told Pentagon reporters via a video hookup from Baghdad that "in order to do a good assessment, I need at least till November."

In a statement yesterday, Odierno said: "There is no intention to push our reporting requirement beyond September. Nothing I said yesterday should be interpreted to suggest otherwise. My reference to November was simply suggesting that as we go forward beyond September, we will gain more understanding of trends."

© 2007 The Washington Post Company