- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 11, 2007

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer yesterday said Democrats will require an up-or-down vote this week on a resolution opposing President Bush’s “surge” policy in Iraq, while Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Christopher J. Dodd said Congress must “step up to the plate” by cutting off funds for the deployment of more U.S. troops.

“We’re going to do a very simple, straightforward, very clear resolution, which says two things,” said Mr. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat. “We support the troops; we’re going to protect the troops. Secondly, we do not support the president’s escalation of troops in Iraq.”

A House vote on the Democrats’ resolution probably will be scheduled for Friday, Mr. Hoyer said on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” while criticizing the Senate for its inability to agree on a nonbinding resolution because of a deadlock on whether to debate Republican alternatives.

“As we discussed this, we saw the problems that the Senate was confronted with — the ‘whereas’ clauses and the ‘therefore’ clauses confused the issue,” Mr. Hoyer said. “We believe the American public wants a straightforward answer to the question, ‘Do you agree with the president’s proposal?’ ”

Saying “every member will have an opportunity to speak, every member will have an opportunity to vote,” Mr. Hoyer added that Democrats don’t think the Iraq resolution “ought to be confused by any other issues that might be raised.”

Mr. Dodd said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that he will push to block Senate funding for the increased troop levels that Mr. Bush says are needed to bring stability and quell sectarian violence in Iraq.

“You’re not going to get a change in strategy until we decide that this program we’re on has to change, and I believe that’s only going to come when Congress makes that decision,” said the Connecticut Democrat, who announced his presidential candidacy last month.

“I’ll be supporting a resolution that will cut off funding but not put our troops in jeopardy,” said Mr. Dodd, noting that he had previously proposed “a cap on the amount of troops” deployed to Iraq, where he said the situation “can’t be any worse than it is today.”

The top House Republican, however, said the new U.S. commander in Iraq deserves time to demonstrate progress in a new strategy to achieve victory there.

Army Lt. Gen. David Petraeus “is the commander on the ground. He’s the one who says by the end of the summer we’ll have a clear idea how well it’s working,” House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, said on “Meet the Press.”

Saying that “Democrats have no plan for success in Iraq,” Mr. Boehner warned that “the consequences of failure are immense,” including “chaos in the Middle East” and more terrorist attacks in the United States.

“I believe that victory in Iraq is the only option,” he said.

Appearing on CBS, Senate Minority Whip Trent Lott echoed Mr. Boehner’s comments, saying of the administration’s critics: “What is your plan? And that’s when a deafening silence falls in. The commander in chief has to provide leadership and direction. He came up with a plan. I think we should give the plan a chance. It may be the last chance. Let’s don’t do anything to undermine it.”

The Mississippi Republican acknowledged that even voters in his conservative state are dissatisfied with the apparent lack of progress in Iraq.

“The people want us to, you know, get out of there in a reasonable way with victory. … But there’s no question that the people even in my state are saying, ‘Wait a minute, this is not going well. You know, the status quo has got to change. And how many times do we have to send back our National Guard troops?’

“They want a different situation, but they want a reasonable result. That’s the difference. They’re not willing just to say OK, cap the troops, pull the troops out, retreat back to the borders,” Mr. Lott said on “Face the Nation.”

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