- The Washington Times - Friday, January 26, 2007

From combined dispatches

Senate Republicans hit back last night against Democratic plans to condemn in harsh terms President Bush’s proposed troop surge in Iraq.

Sen. John W. Warner, Virginia Republican and former Armed Services Committee chief, said last night that he would not negotiate with Senate Democrats to develop a single bipartisan resolution to rebuke Mr. Bush on Iraq, while Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, worked on a declaration of support for the plan.

Mr. Warner’s decision bolsters the chance that his milder resolution, which does not use politically charged language, will be the one to win final Senate approval. Democrats are expected to vote for his proposal if their harsher measure fails.

Several Republicans, including Sen. George V. Voinovich of Ohio, say they prefer Mr. Warner’s resolution, also sponsored by Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Norm Coleman of Minnesota, and Sen. Ben Nelson, Nebraska Democrat, because it is less divisive.

Mr. Warner’s decision to avoid bargaining also decreases the odds that a single resolution would emerge that would garner a strong, bipartisan vote reproaching Mr. Bush’s plan, which the White House hopes to avoid. The resolution would put the Senate on record as opposing Mr. Bush’s decision to send 21,500 more troops to Iraq.

Mr. Warner’s nonbinding measure is less critical than one approved Wednesday in a 12-9 vote by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. That resolution — introduced by Democratic Sens. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware and Carl Levin of Michigan, and Sen. Chuck Hagel, Nebraska Republican — states flatly that sending more troops into Iraq is “not in the national interest.”

Any agreement on the two resolutions “should occur as a consequence of the will of the Senate, working in ‘open’ session,” Mr. Warner wrote in a letter to Mr. Biden and other co-sponsors of the Democrat-driven resolution.

A full Senate vote could come as early as the week of Feb. 5, with debate beginning next week. The House is expected to follow with a vote on a similar measure.

Republicans have met privately to try to shore up support for Mr. Bush’s approach. The Senate is tied 49-49 between the two parties, with two independents caucusing with the Democrats. That means either party needs help from the other to reach the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster and advance legislation.

“The goal is to try to salvage this situation and not send the additional troops with a message of disapproval,” said Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, of the Republican meetings.

Meanwhile yesterday, Mr. Cornyn was circulating a draft of his pro-surge resolution among his colleagues. Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican, separately drafted a similar resolution.

“The senator feels strongly that voice should be given in the Senate on behalf of the millions of Americans who vigorously support our troops and want to see them succeed in Iraq,” a source close to Mr. Cornyn told The Washington Times last night on the condition of anonymity because the resolution had not been introduced.

The source said Mr. Cornyn wants senators to “have a true choice in the debate ahead” but that in recent days “the only voices that have been heard have been from those who oppose the president’s plan and want to see a withdrawal from Iraq before the mission is completed.”

Mr. Cornyn’s nonbinding “sense of the Senate” resolution depicts a series of dire consequences from U.S. failure and declares that the United States has “a national security interest” that requires it to “remain committed to helping establish an Iraq that can govern, sustain and defend itself.”

It says that Mr. Bush’s plan — to send more than 17,000 additional troops to Baghdad and 4,000 Marines to western Iraq to clear areas of insurgents and then hold them — offers chances of success that “while not guaranteed are likely better than either the status quo or a precipitous withdrawal” of U.S. forces.

Mr. McCain said he is interested in drafting a resolution that would establish benchmarks by which the U.S. could measure the effectiveness of the troop increase.

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