- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 6, 2007

House Minority Leader John A. Boehner yesterday said Republican lawmakers might begin looking for a “Plan B,” if there are no measurable signs of progress in Iraq by September. However, Mr. Boehner rejected a Democratic call for withdrawal, saying the president’s plan should be given more time.

“We don’t even have all of the 30,000 additional troops in Iraq yet, so we’re supporting the president. We want this plan to have a chance of succeeding,” the Ohio Republican said during an appearance on “Fox News Sunday.”

However, Mr. Boehner acknowledged the growing pressure on Republicans facing re-election challenges next year. “By the time we get to September or October, members are going to want to know how well this is working, and if it isn’t, what’s Plan B?”

A poll released yesterday by Rasmussen Reports found 38 percent of voters approving of President Bush’s job performance, with 60 percent expressing disapproval. Mr. Bush retains a 76 percent approval rating from Republicans, making it far more challenging for Republicans in Congress to break with the White House.

Another poll released by Rasmussen last week found the number of self-identified Republican voters had fallen to 31 percent of the electorate, down from 37.3 percent in 2004. Democrats’ numbers also dropped but remained well ahead of Republicans, claiming 36.5 percent of respondents.

Despite those numbers and several other polls showing a majority of Americans favoring a timetable for withdrawal, Mr. Boehner remained cautiously optimistic about progress in Iraq.

“Over the course of the next three to four months, we’ll have some idea how well the plan’s working. Early signs are indicating there is clearly some success on a number of fronts,” he said.

Appearing on CNN’s “Late Edition,” Sen. Richard G. Lugar, Indiana Republican, agreed with Mr. Boehner’s assessment.

“General [David H.] Petraeus will be back. He’ll make a report,” Mr. Lugar, the ranking Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, said of the U.S. commander in Iraq. “Some things will go well. Some things will not go so well, but we’ll still have an obligation.”

Meanwhile, some Democrats running for their party’s presidential nomination took shots at the Republicans, and one another.

Former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina told host George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week” that congressional Democrats should not negotiate with Mr. Bush over a troop-withdrawal provision in a war-funding bill.

“I think that America has asked the Democratic leadership in the Congress to stand firm, and that’s exactly what I’m saying they should do,” he said.

Mr. Edwards, who places third in most Democratic primary polls, has made his demand for a troop withdrawal a centerpiece of his presidential campaign. He released a commercial in Washington last week suggesting that Democrats continue to send the current war-funding bill to the White House, even if they don’t have the votes to override a presidential veto.

“With all due respect, we could have used John’s vote here in the Senate on these issues here,” said Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, Connecticut Democrat. Mr. Dodd, who is also running for president, was referencing the fact that Mr. Edwards’ seat went to Republican Richard M. Burr when he decided against re-election in favor of running for president in 2004.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, dismissed Mr. Edwards last week while expressing thanks to all of his party’s lawmakers running for the White House who he said have balanced their personal beliefs with the larger needs of the party.

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