Leahy, Sanders urge Bush not to veto troop deadline legislation

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(Host) Both of Vermont’s U.S. senators, Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders, are urging President Bush not to veto legislation that establishes deadlines for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.

Sanders believes a presidential veto could push more Republican senators to support the deadline strategy.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) In the next few weeks, House and Senate conferees are expected to send legislation to the president that continues funding for the war and sets a deadline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops during 2008.

Bush has threatened to veto the measure because it includes the troop deadline. Senator Patrick Leahy says Democratic leaders are prepared to push ahead with deadline approach even if the president vetoes this bill:

(Leahy) “Now the president can veto that. I think he’d make a bad mistake and I think he ought to take the opportunity to say, it’s time to turn over to the Iraqis.’ it’s time to bring our American men and women home, bring them back to safety.’ If he doesn’t do that then we’ll keep on making these attempts.”

(Kinzel) White House officials say they’ll need authorization for more money for the war in the next two months. They’ve suggested that members of Congress who vote against these funds aren’t supporting the troops. Leahy bristles at this suggestion.

(Leahy) “It is a rather cynical thing for this Administration especially to ask, are you supporting the troops?’ We support the troops especially when they go over there and when they come back. The Bush Administration hasn’t we saw the fiasco at Walter Reed they did not support our badly wounded troops at Walter Reed Hospital.”

(Kinzel) Senator Bernie Sanders thinks a presidential veto could have negative consequences for the White House because he believes funding for the war could be a key issue in many U.S. Senate races next year.

(Sanders) “I think whether the war will end sooner or later will be dependent on a number of Republicans, especially those who are coming up for election and who have to go back to their constituents and say, you know, I’m voting to continue this war or I have the courage to say no to the president.'”

(Kinzel) Sanders thinks these Senate Republicans could play a critical role in ending the war:

(Sanders) “When you have a dozen Republicans, and we have a couple right now, walk into the White House and say Mr. President there’s people back home in my state who do not want to continue this war. I have to part company with you Mr. President. It is a disaster for the country. It is a disaster for the Republican Party. It is a disaster for my re-election. I’m no longer with you.’ On that day, the war ends.”

(Kinzel) It’s unlikely that this issue will be settled soon because both Sanders and Leahy admit there’s virtually no chance that opponents of the war can muster enough votes to override a presidential veto.

For VPR News I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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