Democrats Agree to Iraq Panel

By Zachary A. Goldfarb
Special to The Washington Post
Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Democratic leaders agreed yesterday to President Bush's idea for a new bipartisan panel to advise him on the fight against terrorism and the Iraq war, days after rejecting such a commission.

The president proposed the panel earlier this month when he announced his plan to send 21,500 more troops to Iraq.

"This group will meet regularly with me and my administration; it will help strengthen our relationship with Congress," Bush said Jan. 10 in a prime-time speech.

Democrats quickly opposed the plan. A Jan. 19 letter from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.) said: "We believe that Congress already has bipartisan structures in place . . . that could produce the result you described in your speech."

A senior Democratic leadership aide said yesterday that Bush had wanted to dictate the terms of the panel and even select its Democratic members.

Yesterday, Bush spoke with Pelosi and Reid, and they agreed to create a panel to which Democrats could appoint their own members.

"They had a very good conversation today and it was a very promising start," said Brendan Daly, a Pelosi spokesman.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said in a statement: "The president had a good phone conversation with Senator Reid and Speaker Pelosi this afternoon."

The panel's initial meeting is set for next week, Perino said.

Today, Pelosi is to discuss with Bush her recent visit to Iraq during a White House visit. She said yesterday that her delegation saw no sign of U.S. efforts moving ahead with urgency.

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