Democrats plan all-nighter on Iraq

Republicans dismissed as political theater a Democratic plan for an all-night session of the Senate to debate President Bush’s military strategy in Iraq amid bipartisan proposals to redeploy U.S. troops.

The round-the-clock debate Tuesday night through Wednesday morning was intended as a way of pressuring Republican senators as well as Bush to act sooner rather than later on a change of course in Iraq.

“How many sleepless nights have our soldiers and their families had?” Sen. Dick Durbin, No. 2 in the Democratic leadership, said Monday.

Bush, meanwhile, paid a surprise visit to a gathering of GOP congressional staffers and White House aides trying to determine an effective strategy for communications about war policies. One participant said the president told the staffers he would not rethink his Iraq policies until after a critical military assessment in September.

Bush also said he had no confidence in the ability of international institutions — a reference to the United Nations — to salvage Iraq if the U.S. were to withdraw, according to the participant, who spoke anonymously because the meeting was intended to be private.

Also on Monday, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Gen. Peter Pace, said the service chiefs were developing their own assessment of Iraq to present to Bush in September. Options include another troop buildup or maintaining current troop levels beyond September, Pace said.

Bush on Monday told Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and other officials that continued U.S. support depends on political progress in Baghdad, White House spokesman Tony Snow said.