Senate Dems vow to keep trying for vote on troop surge


Senate Democrats pledged renewed efforts Sunday to curtail the Iraq war, suggesting they will seek to limit a 2002 measure authorizing President Bush’s use of force against Saddam Hussein.

The top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said the proposal had little chance of succeeding. “I think the president would veto it and the veto would be upheld,” said Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana.

A day after Republicans foiled a Democratic bid to repudiate Bush’s deployment of 21,500 additional combat troops to Iraq, Senate Democrats declined to embrace measures — being advanced in the House — that would attach conditions to additional funding for troops.

Sen. Carl Levin, who chairs the Armed Services Committee, said Democratic senators would probably seek to capitalize on wavering Republicans to limit the “wide-open authorization” Congress gave Bush in 2002.

“We will be looking at a modification of that authorization in order to limit the mission of American troops to a support mission instead of a combat mission, and that is very different from cutting off funds,” said Levin, D-Mich.

Sen. Joe Biden, a 2008 presidential candidate who leads the foreign relations panel, said the 2002 authorization should be repealed to restate the president’s authority and clarify the mission of U.S. troops in Iraq.

“I’ve been working with some of my colleagues to try to convince them that that’s the way to go … make it clear that the purpose that he has troops in there is to, in fact, protect against al-Qaida gaining chunks of territory, training the Iraqi forces, force protection and for our forces,” said Biden, D-Del.

The Democratic-controlled Senate failed to force debate on a nonbinding resolution opposing the troop buildup. The 56-34 vote fell four short of the 60 needed, but Democrats quickly claimed victory, noting that a majority of senators — seven of them Republicans — effectively voted against the escalation.

After a week of contentious debate in Congress, the White House scoffed at Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s claim that the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003 has become “the worst foreign policy mistake” in U.S. history.

“The war is tough, but the solution is not to get out,” press secretary Tony Snow said. “It is to provide the kinds of resources and reinforcements our forces need to get the job done, and at the same time say to the Iraqis `You guys got to step up.'”

Snow said it was important to remove Saddam from power and noted that a majority of senators voted in 2002 to authorize force in Iraq.

He said Bush should not see votes in Congress in opposition of his new Iraqi strategy as a rebuke. “The strategy has barely had a chance to begin working,” Snow said.

The House passed a nonbinding resolution Friday that rejected the president’s 21,500-troop buildup in Iraq. The vote put Bush on the defensive going into a far more consequential confrontation over paying for the plan.

House Democrats have said they will attempt to place restrictions on Bush’s request for an additional $93 billion for the military in an effort to make it impossible for him to deploy all 21,500 additional troops.

Levin said limiting the 2002 war authorization would sidestep constitutional questions. Some legal experts have said that restricting money or attaching conditions could arguably encroach on Bush’s powers as commander in chief to control tactics and operations.

“One thought is that we should limit the mission to a support mission — in other words, an anti-terrorist mission to go after al-Qaida in Iraq, to support and train the Iraqi army, to protect our own diplomatic personnel and other personnel in Iraq,” Levin said.

Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., agreed. Senate Democrats are “sitting down already … and trying to work out a new approach,” he said.

Snow said the president understands the importance of debate about the war on Capitol Hill and understands lawmakers’ anxiety about the war.

“What I would say to members of Congress is: Calm down and take a look at what’s going on, and ask yourself a simple question: If you support the troops, would you deny them the reinforcements they think are necessary to complete the mission?'”

Levin was on “Fox News Sunday,” Reed spoke on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Snow and Reid appeared on CNN’s “Late Edition,” and Biden and Lugar were interviewed on “Face the Nation” on CBS.

Copyright © 2007 The Associated Press