White House Asked Dubai Ports to Pull Out

ByABC News via logo
March 10, 2006, 7:39 AM

March 10, 2006 — -- The White House asked Dubai Ports World, a company owned by the United Arab Emirates, to give up its management stake in U.S. ports, to save President Bush from the politically difficult position of vetoing a key piece of legislation to protect America's ports, ABC News has learned.

When the company announced Thursday that it would sell its management stake in six U.S. ports, it was a stunning defeat for Bush, who had put his political capital on the line to back the deal, ABC News chief Washington correspondent George Stephanopoulos said.

"Certainly, it's the most significant break with the Republican leadership in the Congress this term," he said.

The Democrats -- suddenly feeling united -- insist the scuttled ports deal is proof that the White House is weakened and divided against its own party.

"They couldn't hold their forces on the other side," said Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., "and this is a retreat under fire, make no mistake."

"[Capitol] Hill was leading the charge," Stephanopoulos said. "They've been telling the White House for three weeks, 'This deal is dead. We're going to override you.'"

With victory in hand, leading Republicans insist there are no hard feelings.

"In all fairness, I'm not going to be a Monday-morning quarterback," said Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., chairman of the Homeland Security Committee. "It's all over now."

Sen. John Warner, R-Va., agreed.

"I think this incident is behind us, and we will go forward," he said.

The defeat does lead one to question how much control the increasingly unpopular White House will have over Republicans in Congress during this election year. Stephanopoulos said he had been struck by how many Republican members of Congress had said they were holding the White House in contempt.

"They're saying they're arrogant, and they don't trust their competence anymore," he said.

The complex relationship between the president and the Republican members of Congress affects how effective they will be.