WASHINGTON -- President Bush, calling Democratic congressional leaders "irresponsible" for debating a war-spending bill containing timelines for withdrawal from Iraq that he is certain to veto, suggested yesterday that they should stop their "political dance" and "get down to business" in the funding of frontline troops.
If the standoff over a $100 billion-plus supplemental budget for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan goes into next month, the president said, the Army will have to consider extending the deployments of soldiers already at war while training of new forces and repair of military equipment is jeopardized by a lack of funding.
Counting the 57th day since he delivered his bid for additional war-spending to Congress, the president said during a Rose Garden news conference that congressional leaders should rush their bill to his desk so that he can promptly veto it and get on with a new spending bill.
"In a time of war, it's irresponsible for the Democrat leadership in ... Congress to delay for months on end while our troops in combat are waiting for the funds," Bush said.
"Democrat leaders in Congress seem more interested in fighting political battles in Washington than providing our troops what they need to fight the battles in Iraq," said the president, warning that delaying passage of a bill that he can sign will force the Department of Defense to start drawing money from other needed areas this month.
"No question there's been a political dance going on here in Washington," Bush said. "My attitude is, enough politics. ... They ought to get the bill to my desk as quickly as possible, and I'll veto it, and then we can get down to the business of funding our troops without strings and without withdrawal dates. "
If passage of a bill that he can sign extends into May, he said, "the problems will be even more acute."
The Army will have to consider suspending some work at depots, meaning that equipment cannot be repaired, said Bush, who had met with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in the Oval Office before stepping outside for this appearance which quickly became a news conference.
The Army could also have to consider delaying the training of active-duty forces, he said, meaning that troops already deployed in Iraq might have to serve longer stints.
"It has now been 57 days since I requested that Congress pass emergency funds for our troops," Bush said.
Mark Silva writes for the Chicago Tribune.