Teeth in Iraq funding bill? More like 'dentures' says Republican aide
House and Senate negotiators on Friday began the delicate dance over funding the war in Iraq, with one aide predicting the resulting legislation would have "dentures" rather than real teeth to enforce funding consequences.
Congressional leaders met with White House aides Friday for a first round of negotiations on an Iraq war supplemental funding bill after the Senate passed placeholder legislation Thursday. But there continues to be a sharp divide between anti-war Democrats and President Bush in what will be acceptable in a funding bill.
"What you're likely to see, it seems, (is) something that includes benchmarks but benchmarks that don't have teeth," a House Republican leadership aide told RAW STORY Friday, speaking on condition of anonymity. "I call them dentures."
The aide predicted the compromise legislation would resemble a proposal offered earlier this week by Sen. John Warner (R-VA), which would establish benchmarks for progress in Iraq but would allow the president to waive consequences -- such as cuts in foreign aid to Iraq -- associated with meeting those benchmarks. Warner's amendment was supported by 52 senators.
In a closed-door meeting Friday, Democrats proposed a measure that would include a timetable for troop withdrawal, but would allow the president to waive compliance with those deadlines, the Associated Press reported. The White House rejected that offer, saying any kind of timetable is unacceptable because it sends the wrong message to America's enemies.
Calls to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office and that of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid were not immediately returned Friday.
Majorities of the Democratic caucuses in both chambers this week endorsed legislation that would establish a timetable to withdraw US troops from Iraq, but the White House and Republicans in Congress have maintained that any legislation containing strict deadlines is a non-starter.
The Democratic leaders' pledge to send a bill to the president by Memorial Day has forced them to craft a compromise that may not garner support from all in their party, giving Republicans enough bargaining position to craft a bill that is amenable to the White House.
Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI), who sponsored a measure this week that would have begun withdrawing troops within three months, maintained he would not support any legislation that does not force the president to begin removing troops from Iraq. Twenty-nine senators -- 28 Democrats and Vermont Independent Bernie Sanders -- supported Feingold's proposal in a vote Tuesday.
"With the majority of Senate Democrats now in favor of binding legislation to safely redeploy our troops, the pressure on the President is growing to end the misguided mission in Iraq," Feingold said in a statement Thursday.
After their initial meeting with the White House Friday, Democratic leaders maintained that every option, including a timetable, still was on the table, according to the AP.
The president vetoed a bill earlier this month that would have funded the war effort through September but also required a redeployment of US troops out of Iraq to begin Oct. 1. Democrats maintain they will craft legislation to fully fund the troops and require the president to change course in Iraq.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called it "disappointing" that Democrats continue to push for a withdrawal timeline.
"We need to move past debating a surrender date," McConnell said in a statement released Friday.
Reid said he was beyond disappointed after Friday's meeting, the AP reported.
"I really did expect that the president would accept some accountability for what we're trying to accomplish here," Reid said.