Democrats Move to Limit Bush's Authority
Friday, February 23, 2007; 2:34 AM
WASHINGTON -- Four years ago, Congress passed legislation authorizing President Bush to go to war in Iraq. Now Senate Democrats want to take it back.
Key lawmakers, backed by party leaders, are drafting legislation that would effectively revoke the broad authority granted to the president in the days Saddam Hussein was in power, and leave U.S. troops with a limited mission as they prepare to withdraw.
Officials said Thursday the precise wording of the measure remains unsettled. One version would restrict American troops in Iraq to fighting al-Qaida, training Iraqi army and police forces, maintaining Iraq's territorial integrity and otherwise proceeding with the withdrawal of combat forces.
Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., intends to present the proposal to fellow Democrats next week, and he is expected to try to add the measure to anti-terrorism legislation scheduled to be debated later this month. Officials who described the strategy spoke only on condition of anonymity, noting that rank-and-file senators had not yet been briefed on the details.
Republicans recently thwarted two Democratic attempts to pass a nonbinding measure through the Senate that was critical of Bush's decision to deploy an additional 21,500 combat troops.
After failing on his second attempt last Saturday, Reid said he would turn his attention to passing binding legislation.
Jim Manley, a spokesman for Reid, declined to discuss the deliberations, saying only, "No final decisions have been made on how to proceed."
Any attempt to limit Bush's powers as commander in chief would likely face strong opposition from Republican allies of the administration in the Senate. Additionally, unlike earlier, nonbinding measures, the legislation now under consideration could also face a veto threat.
Still, it marks a quickening of the challenge Democrats are mounting to Bush's war policies following midterm elections in which war-weary voters swept Republicans from power in both the House and Senate.
The emerging Senate plan differs markedly from an approach favored by critics of the war in the House, where a nonbinding measure passed last week.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she expects the next challenge to Bush's war policies to come in the form of legislation requiring the Pentagon to adhere to strict training and readiness standards in the case of troops ticketed for the war zone.
Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., the leading advocate of that approach, has said it would effectively deny Bush the ability to proceed with the troop buildup that has been partially implemented since he announced it in January.