A historic veto showdown assured, Democratic leaders have agreed on legislation that requires the first US combat troops to be withdrawn from Iraq by October 1 with a goal of a complete pullout six months later.
"No more will Congress turn a blind eye to the Bush administration's incompetence and dishonesty," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said on Monday in a speech in which he accused the president of living in a state of denial about events in Iraq more than four years after the US-led invasion.
Bush, confident of enough votes to sustain his veto, was unambiguous in his response. "I will strongly reject an artificial timetable (for) withdrawal and/or Washington politicians trying to tell those who wear the uniform how to do their job," he told reporters at the White House as he met with his top Iraq commander, Gen David Petraeus.
Taken together, the day's events marked the quickening of a confrontation that has been building since Democrats took control of Congress in January and promised to change policy in a war has claimed the lives of more than 3,200 US troops and tens of thousands of Iraqis.
Congressional negotiators for the House of Representatives and the Senate set a meeting to ratify the details of the legislation.
The bill includes more than USD 90 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the withdrawal timetable that Bush finds objectionable and billions of dollars in domestic spending that he also has threatened to veto.