Senators Rebuff Bush on Troop Plan

By Jonathan Weisman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 25, 2007

A day after President Bush pleaded with Congress to give his Iraq policy one last chance, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee rebuffed him by approving a nonbinding resolution declaring his troop increase in Iraq to be against "the national interest."

The committee voted 12 to 9 to send a resolution of disapproval of the president's Iraq policy to the Senate floor next week, setting up what could be the most dramatic confrontation between Congress and the Bush administration since the war was launched four years ago. Many Republicans voiced anguish over the president's policy, but only one, Sen. Chuck Hagel (Neb.), a co-sponsor, voted in support of the resolution.

While some lawmakers and antiwar activists have dismissed the resolution as largely meaningless, senior Republicans and White House officials have worked furiously to minimize Republican defections, worried that a large, bipartisan vote would have significant political and international repercussions.

"In an open democracy, we voice our agreements and disagreements in public, and we should not be reticent to do so. But official roll-call votes carry a unique message," said Sen. Richard G. Lugar (Ind.), the Foreign Relations Committee's ranking Republican. A vote for the resolution "will confirm to our friends and allies that we are divided and in disarray," he said.

But Hagel implored his colleagues to take a stand after four years of docile acquiescence.

"What do you believe? What are you willing to support? What do you think? Why were you elected?" he asked. "If you wanted a safe job, go sell shoes. This is a tough business."

But the committee's partisan divide belied the deep undercurrent of GOP misgivings, as one Republican after another spoke out against the deployment of 21,500 additional troops to bolster the faltering government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Lugar called the Bush strategy "dubious" even as he denounced the resolution as "the legislative equivalent of a sound bite." Sen. John E. Sununu (R-N.H.) said additional troops should not be deployed until the Iraqi government showed more resolve. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said she opposed the president and was not afraid to tell him so. And Sen. George V. Voinovich (R-Ohio) said he had delivered a tough message to the White House personally: "You are not listening."

"Congress has allowed this war to go on without anyone having a stake," said an exasperated Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.). "We passed the debt on to future generations. Nobody has sacrificed but the military men and women and the families."

Republican leaders' efforts in the House to placate their members with calls for tougher oversight also appeared to be faltering. Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.) introduced his own resolution of disapproval yesterday, calling for the administration to adopt in full the recommendations of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, recommendations that Bush has largely rejected.

Democratic divisions were also on display, with the most ardent antiwar voices pleading for more dramatic action. Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.) tried to amend the nonbinding resolution with firm legislative language capping troop levels in Iraq at January levels, around 137,500.

"This is not a time for legislative nuancing," said Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.). "This is not a time for trying to forge a compromise that everybody can be a part of. This is a time to stop the needless deaths of American troops in Iraq."

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