Senate Democrats appear ready to try and revoke the broad authority Congress gave President George W. Bush to launch his increasingly unpopular invasion of Iraq in 2003 but the escalating debate in Congress could change the balance of power in that legislative body.
While Democratic leaders map out a strategy to seize control of the war from Bush, maverick pro-war Democrat Joe Lieberman is threatening to jump to the Republican side of the aisle, effectively turning control of the Senate over to the GOP.
Lieberman’s not-so-subtle threat adds fuel to the burning debate on Bush’s failed Iraq war and highlights the fragility of Democratic control. If he switches parties, the Senate would be thrown into a tie with Vice President Dick Cheney having the deciding vote.
Reports The Associated Press:
Four years ago, Congress passed legislation authorizing President Bush to go to war in Iraq. Now Senate Democrats want to take it back.
Key lawmakers, backed by party leaders, are drafting legislation that would effectively revoke the broad authority granted to the president in the days Saddam Hussein was in power, and leave U.S. troops with a limited mission as they prepare to withdraw.
Officials said Thursday the precise wording of the measure remains unsettled. One version would restrict American troops in Iraq to fighting al-Qaida, training Iraqi army and police forces, maintaining Iraq’s territorial integrity and otherwise proceeding with the withdrawal of combat forces.
Majority Leader Harry Reid (news, bio, voting record), D-Nev., intends to present the proposal to fellow Democrats next week, and he is expected to try to add the measure to anti-terrorism legislation scheduled to be debated later this month. Officials who described the strategy spoke only on condition of anonymity, noting that rank-and-file senators had not yet been briefed on the details.
Republicans recently thwarted two Democratic attempts to pass a nonbinding measure through the Senate that was critical of Bush’s decision to deploy an additional 21,500 combat troops.
After failing on his second attempt last Saturday, Reid said he would turn his attention to passing binding legislation.
Jim Manley, a spokesman for Reid, declined to discuss the deliberations, saying only, “No final decisions have been made on how to proceed.”
Any attempt to limit Bush’s powers as commander in chief would likely face strong opposition from Republican allies of the administration in the Senate. Additionally, unlike earlier, nonbinding measures, the legislation now under consideration could also face a veto threat.
Still, it marks a quickening of the challenge Democrats are mounting to Bush’s war policies following midterm elections in which war-weary voters swept Republicans from power in both the House and Senate.
The emerging Senate plan differs markedly from an approach favored by critics of the war in the House, where a nonbinding measure passed last week.
But the fly in the ointment may be Lieberman, who lost the Democratic primary in his home state, won as an independent, and aligned himself with Democrats when the new Congress opened.
Reports Carrie Budoff of The Politico:
Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut told the Politico on Thursday that he has no immediate plans to switch parties but suggested that Democratic opposition to funding the war in Iraq might change his mind.
Lieberman, a self-styled independent who caucuses with the Democrats, has been among the strongest supporters of the war and President BushÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s plan to send an additional 21,500 combat troops into Iraq to help quell the violence there.
“I have no desire to change parties,” Lieberman said in a telephone interview. “If that ever happens, it is because I feel the majority of Democrats have gone in a direction that I don’t feel comfortable with.”
Asked whether that hasn’t already happened with Iraq, Lieberman said: “We will see how that plays out in the coming months,” specifically how the party approaches the issue of continued funding for the war.