GOP Senators Wrestle With Iraq War Resolution

Senate Republicans John McCain of Arizona, left foreground, and John W. Warner of Virginia await the start of a hearing on Iraq.
Senate Republicans John McCain of Arizona, left foreground, and John W. Warner of Virginia await the start of a hearing on Iraq. (By Susan Walsh -- Associated Press)
By Jonathan Weisman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 26, 2007

Senate Republicans, scrambling to head off GOP defections to a resolution opposing President Bush's war policy, are considering their own resolution demanding benchmarks to measure progress in Iraq and possibly a new diplomatic effort to end the war, senators said yesterday.

Senators from both parties began preparing for a showdown with President Bush over his plan to increase troop levels in Iraq, although that showdown may be pushed back to the week of Feb. 5. Two rival camps opposed to the additional troop deployments continued to dicker over the wording of a resolution expressing the Senate's opposition, while GOP leaders and White House loyalists plotted a response.

Minority Whip Trent Lott (Miss.) conceded that his party's leadership could not head off a vote, as the White House wants. But GOP leaders will try to force a vote on a resolution that they hope will satisfy Republicans who are leery of the president's approach but are reluctant to oppose him.

"What we need is to put together a list of benchmarks that are tough and measurable, with requirements that the administration report back on the progress," said Sen. George V. Voinovich (R-Ohio), who has expressed deep concern with the Bush policy but voted against a Foreign Relations Committee resolution of opposition Wednesday.

Democrats said the GOP efforts might keep some Republicans from signing a resolution opposing the troop increase, but not all of them. At least half a dozen Republicans have already signed on to one of two nonbinding resolutions, a strongly worded measure that passed out of the Foreign Relations Committee and a more deferential version drafted by Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.).

Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) and his resolution's co-author, Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), requested a meeting with Warner and his supporters to try to negotiate a single resolution that could attract broad bipartisan support. Last night Warner rebuffed those overtures, saying that he will introduce his resolution on the floor as it is written and that any amendments will have to be made during open debate.

The two resolutions come to similar conclusions, opposing the introduction of an additional 21,500 troops, calling for more diplomacy and a regional peace effort, and demanding that U.S. troops be deployed away from urban sectarian hotbeds to guard Iraq's borders, hunt down terrorists and train Iraqi security forces.

But Warner's version starts with deferential language accepting Bush's constitutional powers as commander in chief, leaves rhetorical room for some additional troop deployments and treats the fight with Sunni extremists in Anbar province as a matter separate from the sectarian violence in Baghdad.

While the lawmakers negotiate, antiwar groups are launching a public relations blitz to sway Congress. A march on Washington is planned for the weekend. And a coalition of labor unions, liberal activists and Iraq war veterans, called Americans Against Escalation in Iraq, will barnstorm through Minnesota, Indiana, Ohio, Maine, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Virginia next week to pressure wavering Republican senators.

In each state, television advertising will show six ex-soldiers intoning: "When it comes to Iraq, America is divided. On the one hand, you've got two-thirds of the American people, a bipartisan majority in Congress, the Iraq Study Group and veterans like us, all opposed to the escalation."

Then, one of the veterans, who is missing an arm, concludes: "On the other hand, there's George Bush, who supports escalation. If you support escalation, you don't support the troops."

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