Senators set showdown with White House

Proposed resolution would oppose Bush's plan to increase U.S. troops in Iraq

January 18, 2007|By Noam N. Levey | Noam N. Levey,LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON -- Setting up a showdown that could come next week, several anti-war senators, including one Republican, introduced a resolution yesterday opposing President Bush's plan to send more troops to Iraq.

The bipartisan resolution drafted by Sens. Joseph R. Biden Jr., a Delaware Democrat; Chuck Hagel, a Nebraska Republican; and Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat, would have no legal power over what Bush can do in Iraq.

But it marks the leading edge of an expanding legislative front that will confront Bush as he tries to chart a new Iraq policy.

Yesterday, Democratic Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut also offered separate plans to halt the deployment of more troops to Iraq.

Presidential spokesman Tony Snow said congressional resolutions would not deter Bush: "The president has obligations as commander in chief and he will go ahead and execute them."

Senate leaders have shown little interest in pushing as far as the more aggressive anti-war lawmakers in the House, who want to mandate a phased withdrawal in law. But, stern and defiant, the three authors of the Senate resolution cast it as an important first step in building bipartisan congressional support for challenging the White House. "I cannot believe the president of the United States will not pay attention," Biden said.

Hagel, a conservative Republican who has lambasted Bush's plan, called it "dangerously irresponsible" and promised, "I will do everything I can to stop the president's policy as he outlined it Wednesday night."

"The Congress of the United States has a role to play," Hagel said at a news conference with Biden and Levin in the Capitol. "I don't believe we have played that role very effectively over the last four years."

The carefully worded five-page resolution restates in 18 detailed "whereas" clauses the critiques made by war critics in Congress and elsewhere about rising U.S. casualties, strains on the military and past failures of the Iraqi government.

"It is not in the national interest of the United States to deepen its military involvement in Iraq, particularly by escalating the United States military force presence in Iraq," the resolution reads in the first of six conclusions.

It also calls for American forces to shift their mission to protecting Iraq's borders, training Iraqi forces and conducting counterterrorism activities.

It concludes by calling for the U.S. to "transfer, under an appropriately expedited timeline, responsibility for internal security and halting sectarian violence in Iraq to the government of Iraq and Iraqi security forces."

At the news conference, Biden said, "When the president goes way off course ... the single and most effective way to get him to change course is to demonstrate that his policy has waning or no support from both parties."

Since announcing his plans last week, the president has insisted in several television interviews that he would not be stopped by congressional opposition.

But over the past 10 days, the White House has been working to persuade GOP lawmakers to stick with him. Yesterday morning, a group of senators was invited to meet with National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley, a leading architect of the president's plan.

Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican who is normally a loyal Bush ally, said White House officials expressed "frustration" that their message wasn't getting out. "To some extent, people have tuned the president out," he said.

Noam N. Levey writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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