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War Funding Talks Resume With No Sign Of Compromise

06 May 2007

The White House and the U.S. Congress resume negotiations this week on a revised war-funding bill. VOA's Paula Wolfson reports the tone is collegial, but there is no sign of an imminent breakthrough.

There is a wide gap between the White House and Capitol Hill on the revised war spending bill.

The White House wants no mention of a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. The Democratic Party leadership in Congress originally pushed for a timeline, but now says it may settle for language that sets out specific goals and consequences for the Iraqi government.

The top Republican in the House of Representatives - Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio - says he sees nothing wrong with including a set of goals or benchmarks in the legislation. But he makes clear his party will not accept any bill that punishes the Iraqis if they fail to meet those goals in a timely fashion.

"I am for benchmarks that are for success," said John Boehner. "I am not for benchmarks with artificial timelines, yanking funds, trying to ensure there is failure in Iraq."

During an appearance on the Fox News Sunday television program, Boehner was asked about long term support for the war among the Republican rank and file. He acknowledged if there are no signs of progress in four months or so, party members in Congress may start to rethink their position.

"By the time we get to September and October, members are going to want to know how well this is working," he said. "And if it is not, what is Plan B [the alternative]?"

A short time later, a senior Senate Democrat - Charles Schumer of New York- indicated he would not be surprised if that scenario comes to pass.

"We believe that the taste for continuing along the present course for Republicans in the Senate and the House is going to fade very quickly," said Charles Schumer.

Schumer told CNN's Late Edition that Democrats will continue to push for a change of administration policy in Iraq. He rejected John Boehner's notion of a bill that includes benchmarks for the Iraqis, but no penalties.

"I think we have to have some teeth," he said. "We have had goals and goals and goals and they have not been met."

Last week, President Bush vetoed the original war spending bill passed by the Democratic-led Congress, which included the withdrawal language. Although they had the simple majority needed to pass the bill, Democrats could not muster enough Republican votes to get the two-thirds majority needed to override the veto.

Congressional leaders now say they want to complete work on a replacement measure by the end of the month. White House officials, while acknowledging the complexities of the legislative process, say they would like to have a bill much sooner.

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