Thursday, January 25, 2007

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Approves Nonbinding Resolution Against "Surge"

A Senate committee approved a toughly worded resolution Wednesday to oppose a troop buildup in Iraq, moving Congress a step closer to an official repudiation of President Bush's leadership of the increasingly violent 4-year-old war. ...

With that resolution headed to the Senate floor for debate as soon as next week, momentum continued to build Wednesday behind a second, more bipartisan resolution opposing the Bush Iraq plan.

Both resolutions are nonbinding and stop well short of the limits Congress has put on spending to scale back other unpopular military operations, including the Vietnam War. But they mark a sharp departure from the largely deferential posture the Republican-led Congress assumed after Bush sought and won approval for the Iraq invasion in 2002. ...

The foreign relations panel's resolution, passed 12 to 9, is sponsored by Sens. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) and Carl Levin (D-Mich.). ...

Hagel, a Vietnam veteran and longtime Iraq war opponent, chided his Republican colleagues for their hesitation.

"The Congress has stood in the shadows … for four years," he said. "I think all 100 senators ought to be on the line on this. What do you believe? What are you willing to support? ... If you want a safe job, go sell shoes."

Democratic divisions were also on display, with the most ardent antiwar voices pleading for more dramatic action. Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.) tried to amend the nonbinding resolution with firm legislative language capping troop levels in Iraq at January levels, around 137,500.

"This is not a time for legislative nuancing," said Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.). "This is not a time for trying to forge a compromise that everybody can be a part of. This is a time to stop the needless deaths of American troops in Iraq."

But the Dodd amendment was defeated, 15 to 6, with five Democrats joining all Republicans in opposition.

The committee's partisan vote strengthened the hand of Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.) and a bipartisan group of senators backing a less forceful resolution of opposition.

Warner and his co-sponsors, Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), went to the Senate floor last night to introduce their resolution of opposition, brandishing a raft of new co-sponsors, including Democrats Ken Salazar (Colo.), Mary Landrieu (La.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.) and Bill Nelson (Fla.), as well as Republicans Gordon Smith (Ore.) and Norm Coleman (Minn.).

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) and Hagel said negotiations with Warner would begin immediately to try to find common ground on a resolution that would attract far more Republican support.

But they said that whatever language is sent to the floor will have to include the policy prescriptions that are in both resolutions: a statement against further deployments; a call for U.S. troops to be re-deployed to guard Iraq's borders, focus on counterterrorism and speeding up the training of Iraqi troops; and a call for diplomatic efforts to engage Iraq's neighbors in the pursuit of a political settlement to the war.

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