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President George W. Bush discusses his veto of the Iraq war funding bill in the Cross Hall of the White House.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images
President Bush has made good on his promise to veto a $124 billion spending bill for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that includes a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops.
The president vetoed the measure a few hours after Congress sent it to him, capping a day of political theater in Washington.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sat before a backdrop of American flags as they signed the spending bill, an unusual bit of ceremony that allowed them to again drive home their message that Democrats want out of Iraq.
"With the benchmarks to hold the Iraqi government accountable," Pelosi said, "this legislation respects the wishes of the American people to end the Iraq war. I'm pleased to sign this legislation which passed both houses of Congress with bipartisan support."
When it was his turn, Reid said, "As we know, the president has put our troops in the middle of a civil war. Reality on the ground proves what we all know: A change of course is needed."
Even as he repeatedly promised to veto the timeline measure, President Bush has said that he is ready to reach an accommodation with the Democratic majority in Congress.
After vetoing the measure, President Bush stood in a White House hallway, the Jefferson Memorial clearly visible through a window behind him as he announced his veto of a bill he called a prescription for chaos and confusion.
"I recognize that many Democrats saw this bill as an opportunity to make a political statement about their opposition to the war," the president said. "They sent their message, and now it is time to put politics behind us and support our troops with the funds they need."
The bill went to the White House on the anniversary of the day four years ago that President Bush, in his own bit of stagecraft, flew to the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln. There, under a banner proclaiming "Mission Accomplished," he declared major combat in Iraq to have ended.
Democrats said the timing was coincidental.
House Republican whip Roy Blunt of Missouri says it's time to end the stagecraft.
"We want to move beyond the political theater and get down to the work that we're supposed to do," Blunt said, "which is to fund the troops in the field and let them do the job that we've asked them to do."
President Bush will meet with congressional leaders Wednesday to open the next act in the Iraq funding drama: finding a measure that both Democrats and the White House can accept.