Dodd Introduces Bill to Cap U.S. Troops in Iraq

By William Branigin and Howard Schneider
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, January 17, 2007; 4:54 PM

Senate Democrats today introduced competing measures in opposition to President Bush's planned buildup of U.S. troops in Iraq, with Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.) seeking a legislative cap on American forces there and a group that includes a leading Republican promoting a nonbinding resolution against the plan.

Dodd introduced legislation to cap the number of troops in Iraq at roughly 130,000, saying that lawmakers should take an up-or-down vote on Bush's plan to send additional troops to the country and not settle for the nonbinding resolution several Senate leaders prefer.

Later, however, Democratic Sens. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (Del.) and Carl M. Levin (Mich.) were joined by Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska in putting forward a resolution that describes Bush's troop buildup in Iraq as "not in the national interest of the United States." Hagel, a Vietnam War veteran, is considered a potential GOP presidential candidate in 2008.

"I will do everything I can to stop the president's policy as he outlined it on Wednesday night," Hagel said in a joint news conference on Capitol Hill with Biden and Levin. "I think it is dangerously irresponsible to continue to put American lives in the middle of a clearly defined tribal sectarian civil war."

In a separate news conference this afternoon, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) said she would support the nonbinding resolution, but she left open the possibility that she would later back "tougher" congressional action aimed at forcing the administration to change course in Iraq.

"From what I've heard out of the administration thus far, I think we will eventually have to move to tougher requirements on the administration to get their attention," said Clinton, who recently returned from a trip to Afghanistan and Iraq with Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) and Rep. John M. McHugh (R-N.Y.).

The administration's priorities "are upside down," and more U.S. forces should be sent to Afghanistan instead of Iraq, Clinton said.

"Rather than an escalation of U.S. troops, which I do not believe will contribute to long-term success in Iraq, we should be beginning a phased redeployment of U.S. troops as a way to put pressure on the Iraqi government to take responsibility for its own security and future," she said.

"We need to change course," said Clinton, who is weighing a 2008 presidential run. "It would be a great irony if the administration's emphasis on escalating our presence in Iraq caused it to ignore the threat facing Afghanistan, where those responsible for planning the September 11 attacks are still our enemies."

White House spokesman Tony Snow denied that Bush is moving U.S. troops from Afghanistan to Iraq.

"That's just not the case," he told a news briefing. "There will not be any direct move [of] just shipping people from one theater of battle to the other."

Dodd, who last week declared his candidacy in the 2008 presidential race, said that "the issues are far too important" for nonbinding measures. "Other than expressing opposition, I felt we should do something more," he said, calling for quick action before any troop increase becomes a fait accompli.

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