Face Off in DC Over Iraq

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By Gail Russell Chaddock | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

Washington - The Democrats controlling Congress could have rushed the emergency war-funding bill they just voted to the president's desk, where a presidential veto is all but inevitable.

Instead, they're waiting until May 1 – the four-year anniversary of President Bush's "mission accomplished" speech on the flight deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln.

It's a signal of the drama about to unfold on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue as lawmakers and the White House figure out what to do after a veto. Increasingly, the most likely scenario looks like a high-stakes game of chicken where each side waits for the other to blink.

Mr. Bush says he wants a clean bill: no extra spending, no timetables or deadlines. Democrats, citing the 2006 elections, say they have a mandate to change direction in Iraq – and that the public will back them in a standoff with the White House over the war.

On Friday, the president invited lawmakers to the White House on May 2, after his veto, to discuss the "way forward." So far, neither side is disclosing negotiating points. But, in the run-up to an expected presidential veto, consensus is building around three approaches.
"It's a great bill. The president should read it and sign it," says Rep. John Murtha (D) of Pennsylvania, who chairs the House panel that drafts defense spending bills. A longtime strong supporter of the military, his repudiation of his 2002 vote supporting the use of force in Iraq gave a congressional face to the antiwar movement.
"If the president vetoes the emergency spending bill, he's the one who will be denying our troops funding and he's the one who will be denying the American people a path out of Iraq," says Sen. Joseph Biden (D) of Delaware, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a presidential candidate.

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