Republicans yesterday accused congressional Democratic leaders of pursuing political gain from attempts to undermine the Iraq war and predicted that neither chamber will pass new troop-withdrawal proposals.
The White House also questioned the timing of a series of war-related votes and ramped up efforts to solidify Republican support on Capitol Hill.
“Congress set out a logical structure in the Iraq supplemental legislation that mandates two reports, one on July 15th and the last one on September 15th. There is no reason now — just two months after the bill was debated, passed and signed into law — to change that schedule,” said National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe.
Outside the White House after meeting with President Bush, Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, said that “the Democratic leadership could care less” about what Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Gen. David H. Petraeus have to say in those reports.
Administration officials said the president’s report will have a mixture of good and bad results, instead of a report composed entirely of bad news, which some news reports had predicted earlier this week.
But Democrats say little progress has been made and are demanding immediate action to protect overextended troops.
“The American people want Congress to bring our troops home, refocus our efforts to fight terrorism and hold the Bush administration accountable,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat.
House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer said the House bill, which will be voted on today, “sets a reasonable timeline,” but he acknowledged that members of his party are being pressured by antiwar groups such as MoveOn.org.
“If we don’t do anything, these groups will feel like we haven’t done anything,” the Maryland Democrat said.
The new House bill, which is sponsored by Rep. Ike Skelton, Missouri Democrat and Armed Services Committee chairman, calls for the “responsible redeployment” of troops within 120 days and a “complete redeployment” to be finished by April 1, 2008. The bill also contains language that would require Mr. Bush to report to Congress on why troops should remain in Iraq “for limited purposes such as to fight terrorism or to train Iraqi forces.”
House Minority Leader John A. Boehner called the bill hastily constructed and an “egregious example of opportunistic partisanship” that threatens national security.
“The fact is Democrats have offered no plan for success in Iraq, indeed no plan at all other than to leave the country to radical jihadists like al Qaeda,” the Ohio Republican said. “The American people deserve better, and so do our troops.”
House Republican Whip Roy Blunt, Missouri Republican, said he doesn’t expect any major breaks from lawmakers in his party — which would ensure a veto-proof measure — regardless of what happens in the Senate.
But Mr. Hoyer said: “If the Republicans vote their constituencies, we’re going to get over half of them.”
Polls show 70 percent of the American public opposed to the administration’s Iraq policy, with majorities also favoring an immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces.
Mr. Bush, for the second consecutive day, sent National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley to Capitol Hill to meet with Republican lawmakers. He met with seven Republican senators who have voiced concern about the president’s policy, including Sen. Olympia J. Snowe of Maine, who yesterday became the first Republican since the last round of Senate votes to switch positions to favor a troop withdrawal to be concluded by April 30.
Republican Sens. Gordon H. Smith of Oregon and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska already have supported similar measures.
Most Democrats are expected to support the legislation, but Republican opponents have vowed to block a final vote, and they appear to have enough strength to do so.
c This article was based in part on wire service reports.