DEB RIECHMANN Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON President Bush today invited Democrats to discuss their standoff over a warspending bill, but he made clear he would not change his position opposing troop withdrawals. The White House bluntly said the meeting would not be a negotiation. “It’s time for them to get the job done, so I’m inviting congressional leaders from both parties both political parties to meet with me at the White House next week,” Bush said in a speech to an American Legion audience in Fairfax, Va. “At this meeting, the leaders in Congress can report on progress on getting an emergency spending bill to my desk,” Bush said. “We can discuss the way forward on a bill that is a clean bill, a bill that funds our troops without artificial timetables for withdrawal and without handcuffing our generals on the ground. I’m hopeful we’ll see some results soon from the Congress.” Democratic leaders said they’re ready to sit down and talk with Bush. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Tuesday that Bush must agree to “take a seat at the table of negotiation, of compromise, of direction change.” “Iraqi leaders are not willing to take the political risk of governing their own country. That must change,” Reid said. “That’s what Congress is demanding. That is what the American people, by a large majority, demand. And the president should be leading us in that direction, not threatening to veto funding for our troops unless we rubber stamp his flawed plan.” In essence, Bush invited the Democratic leaders of Congress to come hear the stance he has offered for weeks. He again accused them of shirking their responsibilities. “We’re at war,” Bush said. “It is irresponsible for the Democratic leadership in Congress to delay for months on end while our troops in combat are waiting for the funds they need to succeed.” Bush said the Defense Department will soon send Congress a request to transfer $1.6 billion from other military accounts to cover funding for troops a move needed, he said, because lawmakers have delayed his emergency spending request. He warned that continued delays would undermine troop training, slow the repair of equipment and force soldiers to serve longer tours of duty.