Fight over war-funding bill continues in Congress

WASHINGTON – President Bush and Democratic leaders of Congress failed yesterday to reconcile key differences over a disputed war-funding bill. Both sides held their ground, with Bush ready to veto any measure that calls for U.S. troops to withdraw from Iraq.

The president met with a bipartisan group of lawmakers in the Cabinet Room for about an hour. Democrats said afterward they would send the president legislation soon and held hopes that Bush would sign it. But the White House said that would not happen.

“It appears that they are determined to send a bill to the president that he won’t accept,” said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino. “They fundamentally disagree.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., tried to pressure Bush to sign the legislation. “We believe he must search his soul, his conscience and find out what is the right thing for the American people,” Reid said, standing outside the White House. “I believe signing this bill will do that.”

“It gives the troops more than he’s asked for and leaves the troops there for considerable periods of time with some goals and benchmarks that have been called for by the American people, the Iraq Study Group and many, many military,” Reid said.

Republicans followed Democrats to the microphones to say there was no hope Bush would sign a bill resembling the Democrats’ legislation.