Thursday, January 18, 2007

Senators introduced a resolution yesterday disapproving of President Bush’s plan to send more troops to Iraq, setting up a confrontation with the White House, which warned that those who vote for it will face charges that they don’t support the troops.

The resolution — written by the top Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services committees and Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska — has no binding effect on Mr. Bush, but the authors said they hope an overwhelming vote will prove the president lacks the support to move forward.

“This resolution will give every senator a chance to say where he or she stands on the president’s plan,” said Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat and Foreign Relations chairman. “The single and most effective way to get him to change course is to demonstrate that his policy has waning or no support from both parties.”

The White House pleaded for lawmakers to take more time, study the president’s plan and ask more questions.

Mr. Bush last week proposed sending more than 17,000 additional soldiers to Baghdad to help Iraqi troops stem sectarian violence and 4,000 more Marines to Anbar province to fight al Qaeda. He said Iraqi officials have promised more troops of their own and have pledged not to interfere as the U.S. and Iraqi forces go after politically sensitive targets.

The president’s spokesman, Tony Snow, said yesterday that Mr. Bush is going to forge ahead with his plan and said members of Congress should be wary of how their opposition will affect the troops.

“Think about what message resolutions would send,” Mr. Snow said. He said he will not be the judge of what does or does not support the troops, but said, “It is a question that those are talking about these resolutions will have to answer to themselves and to the public.”

Some House and Senate Republicans skeptical of Mr. Bush’s proposal went to the White House yesterday to hear the administration’s case, while Vice President Dick Cheney met with Republican senators on Capitol Hill. Now Republican leaders are trying to craft a unified position.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, emerged from the meeting with the vice president to tell reporters that Republican senators unanimously support “fair procedures” for voting on the new resolution. It was a stance far short of the nearly full support they’ve shown the White House on the war during the past four years.

In the House, Rep. Sam Johnson, Texas Republican, offered a bill to ensure that Congress does not cut off or restrict funding for troops in a combat zone such as Iraq, and Republican House leaders urged support.

But opposition to Mr. Bush’s plan is firming up.

Sen. Olympia J. Snowe, Maine Republican, announced her support for the Senate resolution opposing the troop surge, and Sen. Sam Brownback said sending more troops to the region is a bad idea.

The Kansas Republican who has long been supportive of Mr. Bush and is now considering a White House run, said he’s “been committed to a free, safe and secure Iraq from the very beginning.”

But after a visit to the front lines last week, he said he “found less reason for optimism.”

“Sunni leaders blame everything on the Shi’a. Shi’a leaders, likewise, blame everything on the Sunnis. The Kurdish leadership pointed out that the Sunni and Shi’a only meet when the Kurds call the meeting,” he said in a speech on the Senate floor.

Even more frustrating, he said: “All of this suggests that at the present time, the United States cares more about a peaceful Iraq than the Iraqis do. If that is the case, it is difficult to understand why more U.S. troops would make a difference.”

Also back from a trip to Iraq was Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat.

“We saw American service men and women performing bravely and magnificently, and we also saw a strategy that is not working,” said the likely presidential contender. “I, personally, did not see the kind of tangible evidence of actions that we should be expecting from the Iraqi government.”

She, along with fellow Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana, called for more troops to be deployed in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, Connecticut Democrat and another possible 2008 candidate, said he will offer legislation capping the number of troops in Iraq and requiring the president to get congressional approval before adding more.

But Mr. Snow said that would “bind the hands of the commander in chief.”

“To tie one’s hand in a time of war is a pretty extreme move,” he said.

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