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At Retreat, Senate Democrats Press Bush on Iraq

NEW YORK – Senate Democratic leaders today pleaded with President Bush to reconsider his decision to veto a long awaited supplemental war spending bill and said recent statements from the White House hint at a potential softening in the administration’s position on Iraq.

“We are making a plea here, that the president read the bill and sign the bill,” said Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.) during a press conference kicking off Senate Democrats’ two day policy retreat here in New York City. “We call on the president to look to his heart and give it one more thought. … It’s not too late, Mr. President. Please sign the bill.”

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) argued that a veto of the bill would actually increase the likelihood that the U.S. would remain in Iraq longer than needed, since Iraqis would come to view the military as a backstop to violence. “If he fails to sign it will mean that the Iraqis will get the exact wrong message … every time they dial 9-1-1, 20,000 U.S. troops will come riding to the rescue.”

Although the White House maintained that Bush has for weeks been comfortable with his decision to veto the bill, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Friday that recent statements by White House spokeswoman Dana Perino that Bush looked forward to working with lawmakers on a compromise following the veto indicate a softening of opposition to Democrats’ position.

“I think if you look at the president’s statements, the last four days have been very promising,” Reid said, adding that “these are buzzwords for saying, at least as far as I’m concerned, that the president has changed his tune.”

— John Stanton

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