Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Dems Legislative Opposition To "Surge" Losing Steam

Democratic lawmakers, who earlier this month nearly unanimously backed resolutions condemning President Bush's plans to boost troop levels in Iraq, are struggling to agree on what to do next in their drive to bring the war to an end.

In the Senate, party leaders who faced dissent in their own caucus have decided to postpone consideration of a binding resolution that would set limits on what U.S. forces could do in the conflict.

And in the House, Democrats are wrestling with even deeper divisions as they try to agree on a way to use a supplemental war funding bill to slow the deployment of more troops in Iraq amid accusations by Republicans that the move would deprive troops of the help they need.

At a closed-door caucus meeting Tuesday, three senior House Democrats — including the chairmen of the Appropriations and Armed Services committees — urged their colleagues to support the funding strategy, the details of which are being worked out. ...

Democratic leaders in the Senate have never been enthusiastic about using congressional authority over funding the military to tie up the deployment. But their strategy of rewriting the resolution that authorized the 2003 invasion of Iraq to limit the U.S. mission there also has run into trouble.

Leaders have been circulating a draft by Sens. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), the Foreign Relations Committee chairman, and Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the Armed Services Committee chairman. But several senators sounded uncomfortable with language specifying that U.S. troops could engage in some activities, such as counterinsurgency, but not others.

"I think it's very difficult to start changing things after the fact and still avoid micromanaging," said Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), a moderate lawmaker who helped lead efforts to pass a nonbinding resolution opposing the deployment of additional troops.

At the same time, Sen. Russell D. Feingold (D-Wis.), a leading antiwar lawmaker, said the proposal did not go far enough.

"The people of this country did not ask us to reshape the mission in Iraq," he said. "They asked us to end it."

The Democratic disagreements brought smiles to the faces of some Republicans on Tuesday. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), who for weeks has been laboring to blunt the Democratic assault on Bush's plan, said: "It seems like they have to have a debate within their own caucus."

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