Offers made, but no deal on Iraq funding bill

Published May 19, 2007

WASHINGTON - The White House and Congress failed to strike a deal Friday after exchanging competing offers on an Iraq war spending bill that Democrats said should set a date for U.S. troops to leave.

"Time lines for withdrawal are just not the right way to go, and that cannot be the basis for funding our troops, " said Joshua Bolten, White House chief of staff, after a nearly 90-minute meeting on Capitol Hill.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said they offered to grant President Bush the authority to waive the deadlines. They said they also suggested they would drop billions of dollars in proposed domestic spending that Bush opposed, in exchange for his acceptance of identifying a withdrawal date.

The offer came at the meeting of White House officials and Democratic and Republican leaders from the House and Senate. The meeting marked the Democrats' first major concessions in a long battle with the White House on war funding.

"To say I was disappointed in the meeting is an understatement, " Reid told reporters. "I really did expect that the president would accept some accountability for what we're trying to accomplish here."

At stake is more than $90-billion the president says is needed to cover the costs of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan through September. The Democratic-controlled Congress on May 1 sent Bush a bill that would have paid for the war but also would have demanded that troops start coming home by Oct. 1. Bush vetoed the measure that same day.

The United States has spent more than $300-billion on Iraq military operations so far, according to a report Friday by the Government Accountability Office.

For their part, the administration and congressional Republicans said they were willing to consider legislation that sets standards for the Iraqi government and possibly restricts U.S. aid if Baghdad fails to live up to its promises.

In question, however, is whether the White House will accept binding consequences if the Iraqis fail. Bush's aides say he should be able to waive those restrictions - an offer Democrats have said is too weak.

Pelosi said negotiations with the White House were not dead, but she and Reid made it clear they would proceed in drafting a new bill to be voted on next week.

The Democrats declined to say what their next bill will look like in light of Friday's meeting. But they insisted, as they have done for weeks, that nothing - including a timetable on the war - was off the table.

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Latest on Iraq

U.S. deaths: The U.S. military announced Friday that five American soldiers were killed in fighting. Three died Friday when a roadside bomb destroyed their vehicle in Diyala province. Two others were killed and nine were wounded during separate attacks Thursday in southern Baghdad.

Journalists die: ABC News said Friday that two of its Iraqi staffers were slain by gunmen Thursday in Baghdad while driving home from work. They were identified as cameraman Alaa Uldeen Aziz, 33, and soundman Saif Laith Yousuf, 26.

Search goes on: The U.S. military pressed forward Friday with a six-day-old search for three missing soldiers believed captured by al-Qaida in Iraq in an ambush south of Baghdad. Four U.S. soldiers and an Iraqi translator were killed.

Medical tests: Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, leader of Iraq's largest Shiite party, flew to the United States this week for medical tests, a member of his party said Friday. U.S. officials said the cleric, 57, has lung cancer, the Washington Post reported.