- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 3, 2007

Sen. John W. Warner will join his fellow Republicans in voting Monday to block the resolution he wrote rebuking President Bush’s Iraq war policy.

“Senator Warner supports the Senate Republican leadership’s effort to establish a free and open debate on Iraq on the Senate floor, including possible amendments,” a spokesman for the Virginia Republican said yesterday afternoon.

Earlier in the day, Mr. Warner told colleagues during a closed-door strategy meeting at the Library of Congress that he opposes the manner in which Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, is conducting debate on his resolution, which condemns Mr. Bush’s plan to send 21,500 more troops to Iraq.

Senate Republicans are opposed to a vote on the Warner resolution unless they also get votes on two other resolutions. One of those alternatives supports Mr. Bush’s plan, and the other would prohibit cutting funds for the war. Republicans also want each resolution to require 60 votes to pass.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, told reporters yesterday that he expects to have all 49 Republicans in the chamber — nine votes more than are needed for a filibuster — to vote Monday to block the nonbinding resolution.

Mr. Reid said he has been acting in good faith to get a vote on the Warner resolution.

“The American people deserve better than a filibuster on the president’s flawed plan,” he said. “Senate Democrats will continue to negotiate with the Republican leadership to bring the plan to a vote.”

Meanwhile, a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) released yesterday raised new uncertainty about the prospect for withdrawing American troops from Iraq.

Iraqi leaders will be hard-pressed to craft a lasting political settlement or improve their security capabilities in the next 12 to 18 months, according to the collaborative assessment by 16 spy agencies.

The assessment states that growing and entrenched polarization between Shi’ite and Sunni Muslims, inadequate Iraqi security forces, weak leaders and the success of extremists’ efforts to use violence to exacerbate the sectarian war all create a situation that will be difficult to improve.

“We think it is accurate,” said Stephen J. Hadley, Mr. Bush’s national security adviser. “We would emphasize the ‘hard-pressed,’ because we will be pressing them hard and the Iraqi people will be pressing the government hard.”

The news comes as the next major political showdown looms on Capitol Hill.

The Bush administration will ask for another $100 billion for military and diplomatic operations in Iraq and Afghanistan this year and seek $145 billion for 2008, a senior administration official said yesterday.

The requests Monday, which will accompany Mr. Bush’s budget for the 2008 fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, would bring the total appropriations for 2007 to about $170 billion, with a decline the following year.

The additional request for the current year includes $93.4 billion for the Pentagon — on top of $70 billion approved by Congress in September — and is about $6 billion less than the Pentagon’s request to the White House budget office.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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