Reflecting heightened public anxiety over the Iraq war, the Senate issued its most direct challenge yet to President Bush's handling of the conflict, as it pressed for concrete steps toward troop withdrawals.
By a vote of 79 to 19, the Senate on Tuesday approved a resolution designating 2006 as "a period of significant transition to full Iraqi sovereignty . . . thereby creating the conditions for the phased redeployment of United States forces from Iraq." It would also require the White House to submit to Congress an unclassified report every 90 days detailing U.S. policy and military operations.
Two days later, Rep. John P. Murtha (Pa.), an ex-Marine who is the top House Democrat on military spending matters, called for immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. Murtha, who voted for the war, said the U.S. presence boosts the insurgency and is an impediment to Iraqi progress toward self government. More than 90 people were killed by insurgent bombs Friday, most of them worshipers at a Shiite mosque in a town northeast of Baghdad.
Murtha's comments were a catalyst for sometimes-vitriolic exchanges on Capitol Hill, with Republican leaders accusing the Democrats of siding with terrorists and Democrats charging that President Bush deceived the nation in starting a war he has no strategy for ending.
Bush, who has been traveling in Asia, called the Senate resolution "consistent with our strategy." But later he called "irresponsible" Democratic charges "that I deliberately misled the Congress and the people. . . ." Vice President Cheney has called Democrats who criticize the administration's handling of prewar intelligence as engaging in "dishonest and reprehensible" behavior.
-- Shailagh Murray, Jonathan Weisman and Charles Babington