Bipartisan Senate Measure Confronts Bush Over Iraq

By Jonathan Weisman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 18, 2007

A bipartisan group of senators announced a formal resolution of opposition yesterday to President Bush's buildup of troops in Iraq, calling for more diplomacy, international cooperation and an "appropriately expedited" transfer of military responsibilities to Iraqi security forces.

The nonbinding resolution, which could come to a vote within two weeks, moves Congress a major step closer to a public confrontation with the Bush administration over war policy. A Senate vote would be followed quickly by action in the House. But even before the resolution's introduction, prominent lawmakers, including Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), were pushing for far tougher measures that could cut off funding for the war and legislatively thwart Bush's "surge" of 21,500 additional troops.

Clinton said yesterday that she intends to support the resolution, drafted by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.) and Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.). But, she added, "we will eventually have to move to tougher requirements on the administration to get their attention."

A week after Bush addressed the nation on his policy shift, bipartisan opposition appears to be gaining steam, despite continuing White House efforts to tamp down a congressional revolt. No fewer than four measures were introduced yesterday to block the war policy, including the Senate resolution and multiple proposals demanding congressional authorization before additional troop deployments. By day's end, the resolution of opposition had picked up another Republican co-sponsor, Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (Maine).

"I will do everything I can to stop the president's policy, as he outlined it Wednesday night," Hagel said, referring to Bush's speech last week. "I think it is dangerously irresponsible."

Administration officials summoned at least half a dozen skeptical Republican senators to the White House and dispatched Vice President Cheney to the Senate GOP's weekly policy lunch.

"A lot of members of Congress at this point, I think, are still trying to figure out what are all the parts of the plan, how does it work," said White House press secretary Tony Snow. "They've got questions, and they have concerns."

While the White House kept its pronouncements low key, Bush's allies in Congress ratcheted up their rhetoric, questioning the wisdom and seriousness of colleagues who are pushing toward a confrontation with the administration. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) dismissed the resolution as a "political ploy."

Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) called the resolution "the worst of all outcomes . . . a symbolic going-to-the-pier before the troops ship off to say, 'We believe in you, but you're going to lose.' "

But the president's position continued to erode.

"The bottom line is: I went there with concerns, I left with concerns," said Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.), a participant in the White House meeting.

"I think we clarified for them what the reality is," added Sen. George V. Voinovich (R-Ohio), another attendee.

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