The White House threatened on Wednesday to veto a proposed House bill that would pay for the war only through July–a limit Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned would be disastrous.
The warnings came as Democratic leaders wrestled with how to support the troops but still challenge President Bush on the war. Bush has requested more than $90 billion to sustain the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through September.
Democrats were unbowed.
“With this latest veto threat, the president has once again chosen confrontation over cooperation,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
In a flash of defiance, House Democratic leaders this week promoted legislation that would provide the military $42.8 billion to keep operations going through July, buy new equipment and train Iraqi and Afghan security forces. Congress would decide shortly before its August recess whether to release an additional $52.8 billion to fund the war through September.
“In essence, the bill asks me to run the Department of Defense like a skiff, and I’m trying to drive the biggest supertanker in the world,” Gates told senators Wednesday. “And we just don’t have the agility to be able to manage a two-month appropriation very well.”