WASHINGTON - A day after President Bush implored Congress to give his Iraq strategy a chance to succeed, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved a resolution yesterday that denounces the plan to send more troops to Baghdad.
The 12-9 vote set up the most direct confrontation over the war since it began in 2003.
The full Senate is poised to consider the nonbinding, yet strongly symbolic, repudiation of Bush's plan as early as Wednesday.
One Republican, Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, joined 11 Democrats on the committee in supporting the measure. But even Republicans who opposed the resolution expressed deep doubt on whether the troop increase could succeed and suggested it was time for a new direction.
"We'd better be damn sure we know what we're doing, all of us, before we put 22,000 more people in that grinder," said Hagel, who helped write the resolution.
He told his colleagues that if they wanted a safe job that required no tough decisions, they should "go sell shoes."
Even as the White House delicately worked to persuade some Republicans to consider the president's approach, the administration said congressional action would not interrupt the plan to send about 21,500 more U.S. troops to Iraq.
In an interview with CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer, Vice President Cheney defended the administration's policy. "The fact is, we can complete the task in Iraq. We're going to do it.. . . It is a good strategy. It will work. But we have to have the stomach to finish the task."
Hoping to make the measure more acceptable to Republicans, Democratic leaders agreed to tone down language in the resolution, changing the word escalating the military force to increasing it.
The committee rejected other amendments that would have strengthened or softened the resolution, which described Bush's plan to increase troops as contrary to the national interest. Some Republicans expressed reluctance to support the measure because they feared it could be seen as a political attack on Bush, but left themselves open to backing a similar plan offered by Sen. John W. Warner (R., Va.).
Democrats say they believe that at least 8 of the 49 Republicans in the Senate might join with nearly all Democrats in embracing a resolution - Biden's or Warner's - critical of Bush's troop-increase plan.
Sen. George V. Voinovich (R., Ohio) said he was disappointed that the administration had failed to extend an olive branch to Congress. He said he had told a White House official Tuesday that the stalemate in Iraq was threatening to consume the Bush presidency.
"It's time to recognize that if you keep going the way you are, you are never going to achieve what you want to achieve," Voinovich said.
Hours after yesterday's hearing, the effort led by Warner was gaining ground, with six Democrats and three other Republicans signing on as cosponsors of his proposal, which also bluntly opposes sending more troops to Iraq. Warner was declining offers from Democratic leaders to merge his proposal with theirs, saying he wanted to keep his plan as neutral as possible, so it could attract wide bipartisan support.
While details of the two resolutions vary somewhat, their message is the same: Many members of Congress do not support the plan to expand the military operation in Iraq.
The White House is, uncharacteristically, shying away from an overt lobbying effort to thwart the Iraq resolutions, as it might do more harm than good. Instead, the administration is leaving it mainly to the GOP leadership, including the minority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, to work with members to draft an alternative.
Still, the White House has sought to head off overwhelming votes against the president in both the Senate and the House. Since Bush announced his plan to send more troops to Iraq on Jan. 10, the national security adviser, Stephen J. Hadley, and his deputy, J.D. Crouch, have held meetings with members of both parties to try to ease skepticism about the new policy.
Read the full text
of the nonbinding resolution via http://go.philly.com/