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Senate Foes Of Bush Troop Surge In Iraq Join Forces February 1, 2007

Posted by notapundit in Congress, Politics, US News.
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By Anne Flaherty
Of THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON (AP)–Two senators leading separate efforts to put Congress on record against President George W. Bush’s troop buildup in Iraq are joining forces, agreeing on a nonbinding resolution that would oppose the plan and potentially deal an embarrassing blow to the White House.

Sens. John Warner, R-Va., and Carl Levin, D-Mich., had been sponsoring competing measures in opposition to Bush’s strategy of sending 21,500 more U.S. troops to the war zone; Warner’s less harshly worded version was attracting more interest from Bush’s Republican colleagues. The new resolution would vow to provide money for troops while keeping Warner’s original language expressing the Senate’s opposition to the troop buildup.

The resolution could well gain more support from members of both parties than Levin’s and Warner’s separate versions had been attracting. It lacks Levin’s language saying the troop increase is against the national interest, and it drops an earlier provision by Warner suggesting Senate support for some additional troops.

Sen. Harry Reid, leader of the Democratic majority in the Senate, said he wants to begin debate Monday on the new measure, bypassing committee review. Levin’s original resolution would no longer be considered.

“I want to work with the Republican leader in setting up a process for making sure people have the ability to offer their amendments,” Reid said.

The resolution probably would pose a threat to the White House because of its potential appeal to Republicans who have grown tired of the almost 4-year-old war and want to express their feelings. The White House has been hoping to avoid an overwhelming congressional vote criticizing Bush’s handling of the war.

“It’s been a hard work in progress,” Warner said of his resolution, which has been struggling to win support of 60 senators so as to prevent a filibuster.

The agreement comes as several leading Republicans who support the troop buildup said they will give the administration and the Iraqis about six months to show significant improvement. Many other Republicans say they are deeply skeptical additional troops in Iraq, rather than a political settlement, would help calm the sectarian violence.

The widely unpopular war has led to the deaths of more than 3,000 U.S. troops, tens of thousands of Iraqis, and is blamed for Republican losses in the Nov. 7 elections that handed control of Congress to the Democrats.

The House of Representatives previously had planned to wait for the Senate to vote first as a way of testing the waters for Republican support of such a resolution. But according to a Democratic aide, the House will begin the process next week with a committee review. That would set the stage for a House floor debate the week of Feb. 12.

Warner, a prominent Republican and former chairman of the Armed Services Committee, had attracted at least seven other Republicans who were inclined to vote for his resolution. Scrambling to find additional support, Warner added language proposed by Republican Sen. Judd Gregg that would protect financing for the troops.

As of late Wednesday, Gregg had not said whether he would support the revised resolution.
“Colleagues have come up to me and said, `Can you assure me that this doesn’t provide a cutoff of funds?”‘ Warner said.

Warner’s resolution will now rival a proposal by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., that would identify benchmarks for the Iraqi government to meet. McCain’s measure is intended to give Republicans an outlet for expressing that the U.S. commitment in Iraq must not be open-ended, without openly criticizing the president.

McCain’s measure also picked up steam Wednesday, with Sens. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., and GOP leaders saying they might support it.

“I don’t think this war can be sustained for more than six months if in fact we don’t see some progress,” Roberts said. Until this month, he was chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Roberts’ comments came two days after the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the new U.S. military push was the Iraqis’ “last chance.”

“This needs to be successful over the next six to nine months,” McConnell said Monday in a television interview. “And if not, we’re going to have to go in a different direction.”

Bush objected on Wednesday to proposals from Republicans and Democrats alike and acknowledged that “there’s a lot of pessimism” in Congress about his troop buildup.

In a television interview, Bush took issue with McConnell’s nine-month deadline.

“I think it’s a mistake to put timetables on difficult missions because an enemy can adjust,” Bush said. “On the other hand, I certainly understand the urgency in Mitch’s voice. I also understand the skepticism on Capitol Hill. I mean, no doubt, there’s a lot of pessimism there today.”

In a statement after the president’s interview, McConnell avoided mention of a specific time frame, but stressed that the U.S. commitment in Iraq “is not open-ended.”

“We will know in a relatively short period of time whether or not the Iraqis are committed, and initial results are positive,” McConnell said. “Of course we would need to reconsider our strategy if this effort fails.”

Bush also criticized a proposal by Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, a Democratic presidential hopeful, to have all U.S. combat forces out of Iraq by spring 2008. “I say that it’s important to succeed, and that failure in Iraq will cause chaos,” Bush said.

“My admonition to those who are speaking out is let us back the troops and let us hope for the success” of their mission.

Deserted by some key Republicans, Bush nevertheless said, “I don’t feel abandoned… When times are good, there’s millions of authors of the plan. When times are bad, there’s one author, and that would be me.”

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