The White House hopes to have a summit next week with leaders of both parties and both Houses of Congress in an attempt to figure a way to produce a bill that will continue paying for the soldiers and supplies the war on terror is demanding in Iraq and Afghanistan, a spokeswoman said.

Dana Perino was responding to a question from Les Kinsolving, WND’s correspondent at the White House.

“The top leaders of the two largest veterans organizations – the American Legion and the VFW – have written Congress, asking members to pass a clean war funding bill for the sake of the troops. Does the president believe the majority of Congress will accede to the request of these veteran leaders, or not?” he asked.

“The president is going to invite the bicameral, bipartisan leadership to the White House next Wednesday, and we hope at that meeting we can find a path forward so that a clean bill can get to the president’s desk,” she said.

The Democratic-controlled House and Senate have passed different versions of the more than $120 billion spending plan. But both include mandatory troop pullout dates that Bush has said he cannot accept. Deadline opponents have said that’s the simplest way to tell the terrorists how to win – just wait for a certain date and then U.S. troops would be gone.

The leaders of the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars in a joint letter addressed to leaders of the U.S. Senate and House but delivered to every member asked for the sake of the troops to get the funding finished.

In their letter, American Legion National Commander Paul Morin and VFW National Commander Gary Kurpius said the funding “must be void of any language that directs the conduct of military operations or troop movements based on timelines established by Congress rather than the commanders on the ground, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, or by the Commander in Chief.”

“The men and women of the armed forces in the theater of operation are dependent on this emergency funding to sustain and achieve their military missions,” the leaders told Congress.

“Everyone wants the war to end, but how it ends is just as important,” Kurpius said. “So with all due respect to the small majority in the new Congress who voted to withdraw the most of our 140,000 troops from Iraq next year … you are wrong.”

In a second question, Kinsolving asked about the president’s reaction to a decision to drop charges that had been pending for a year against three Duke University athletes after a woman accused them of rape.

“I can’t believe the president has no concern about the three Duke lacrosse players whose families face huge legal fees because they were falsely accused of rape by a female stripper. And my question, surely you can tell us that the president is glad that all charges have been dropped against these three young men, because you don’t want to leave the nation in any doubt as to where the president stands on this issue, do you?” he asked.

Calling it a “legal matter,” Perino declined comment.

Kinsolving said it was an issue that had been settled, but she said, “I haven’t spoken to the president about it. If I get a chance to, then I’ll be able to respond.”

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