The leader of a bipartisan effort to rebuke President Bush’s Iraq strategy said Thursday he would not strike a compromise with a harsher Democratic resolution the Senate will debate next week.
Sen. John Warner, R-Va., former chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said he won’t negotiate with Democrats to develop a single proposal on Iraq. His comments _ along with the emergence of other resolutions the Senate might consider _ underscored how a Congress largely against Bush’s proposal to send more troops to Iraq remained divided over what to do about it.
Warner’s decision bolsters chances that his resolution will be the one to win final Senate approval. Democrats are expected to vote for his proposal if their measure fails, and several Republicans said they prefer Warner’s approach because it is less divisive.
His decision to avoid bargaining also decreases the odds that a single resolution would emerge that would garner a strong, bipartisan vote reproaching Bush’s plan, which the White House hopes to avoid.
Warner’s resolution would put the Senate on record as opposing Bush’s decision to send 21,500 more troops to Iraq. It leaves open the possibility that a small number of forces could be sent to the western Anbar Province, where al-Qaida members are believed to be operating.
The nonbinding measure is less critical than one approved Wednesday in a 12-9 vote by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. That resolution _ introduced by Sens. Joseph Biden, D-Del., Carl Levin, D-Mich., and Chuck Hagel, R-Neb. _ states flatly that sending more troops into Iraq is “not in the national interest.”
Any agreement on the two resolutions “should occur as a consequence of the will of the Senate, working in ‘open’ session,” Warner wrote in a letter to Biden and other co-sponsors of the Democratic-driven resolution.
A full Senate vote could come as early as the week of Feb. 5, with debate beginning next week. The House is expected to follow with a vote on a similar measure.
Amid the maneuvering, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., led House members on a fact-finding trip to Iraq. And other Democrats attacked Vice President Dick Cheney for comments in a CNN interview Wednesday defending administration policy in Iraq.
“To have Vice President Cheney suggest that we have had a series of enormous successes in Iraq is delusional,” said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.
As the Democratic-led Senate steams toward a vote on Iraq, Republicans crafted their own proposals in hopes of staving off GOP defections. Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., drafted separate resolutions that would voice support for the administration’s Iraq policies.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said he is interested in drafting a resolution that would establish benchmarks by which the U.S. could measure the effectiveness of the troop increase.
Republican leaders, however, were unlikely to try to corral members behind a single position. Also, any agreement probably would look unfavorable for the White House because so many members have grown tired of the nearly four-year war.
David Satterfield, the State Department’s senior adviser on Iraq, told a Senate panel Thursday that the increased security afforded by extra troops will make it easier to oversee rebuilding efforts in Iraq.
“We know there are no silver bullets, no guarantees regarding the question of Iraq. … But the situation now in Iraq, and the stakes for the United States, the region and the international community, are extraordinary,” Satterfield said.
Members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee responded that they were wary of pouring more money into rebuilding without a political settlement and improved security.
“I want you to know that I am not inclined to support any additional funding in this area without strong assurances that this sort of mismanagement has been alleviated,” said Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va.
White House chief of staff Joshua Bolten said in an interview Thursday with National Public Radio that the administration does not expect Congress to cut the purse strings for the war. But he said the administration has some concern that the ill will that U.S. policy in Iraq has generated on Capitol Hill could hamper the ability for lawmakers to work with the White House on other issues.
“To some degree there will inevitably be some hangover of that issue into other areas, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do the people’s business,” Bolten said.
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