Senators Unite On Challenge to Bush's Troop Plan

By Shailagh Murray and Jonathan Weisman
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, February 1, 2007

Democratic and Republican opponents of President Bush's troop-buildup plan joined forces last night behind the nonbinding resolution with the broadest bipartisan backing: a Republican measure from Sen. John W. Warner of Virginia.

Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) announced the shift, hoping to unite a large majority of the Senate and thwart efforts by the White House and GOP leaders to derail any congressional resolution of disapproval of Bush's decision to increase U.S. troop levels in Iraq by 21,500.

Although the original Democratic language was popular within the party, it had little appeal among Republicans. Warner's proposal drew support from both sides, and it was retooled last night to maximize both Democratic and Republican votes.

The revised resolution would express the Senate's opposition to the troop increase but would vow to protect funding for the troops. The resolution does not include the Democratic language saying the Bush plan is against the national interest, but it also drops an earlier provision by Warner suggesting Senate support for some additional troops.

"It's been a hard work in progress," Warner said of the revised resolution, which will require the support of at least 60 senators to prevent a filibuster.

After reviewing the Warner revisions, Reid decided the new text would take the place of the original resolution, by Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.) and Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.). He said the Senate will begin debating the resolution next week, provided Democrats and Republicans can agree on a way to overcome some procedural hurdles.

House Democratic leaders reached the same decision, ordering committees to draft a resolution next week patterned on Warner's language. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) went further, publicly hinting she will push binding legislation that would begin bringing U.S. troops home from Iraq. "I believe that you'll see initiatives on the floor to this effect: that we have this year in which we should be able to drastically reduce the number of troops," she said in an interview broadcast on National Public Radio yesterday.

In both the House and the Senate, Democratic leaders decided to get the largest possible vote, even if it means embracing weaker language than the original Democratic resolution.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino responded to the announcement by saying: "The president wants to win in Iraq -- he's proposed a comprehensive plan to do so, and he's asked Congress to give the plan a chance to work. . . . These resolutions send mixed signals to our troops and our enemy."

The Warner and Biden resolutions reach almost identical conclusions, in that they oppose the president's deployment of 21,500 additional troops and call for existing troops to be reassigned to guard Iraq's borders, combat terrorism and train Iraqi security forces. Both measures call for regional diplomacy to draw Iraq's neighbors into a peace process.

But Warner revamped his original proposal, both to win over many reluctant Republicans who thought it was too tough and to reassure Democrats who complained he was not being tough enough on the administration.

He added language specifically opposing a cutoff of funding for U.S. troops in a targeted appeal to Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), who had offered an identical separate measure.

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