A bipartisan majority in the Senate yesterday united behind a firm “stay the course” resolution on the war in Iraq, despite searing public criticism from both sides in Congress over President Bush’s handling of the war.
The resolution is critical of the war’s execution and condemns any effort by Mr. Bush to send reinforcements to the region. In the measure, the Senate also promises not to cut off funding for the increasingly unpopular war.
“Congress should not take any action that will endanger United States military forces in the field, including the elimination or reduction of funds for troops in the field, as such an action with respect to funding would undermine their safety or harm their effectiveness in pursuing their assigned missions,” says the resolution, authored mainly by Sen. John W. Warner, Virginia Republican.
Although backers say they are deeply dissatisfied with the execution of the war, the resolution says that the United States “should continue vigorous operations” in parts of Iraq and that early withdrawal “would present a threat to regional and world peace.”
Sen. Russ Feingold, the Wisconsin Democrat who has always opposed the war, called the resolution weak and misguided.
“The resolution rejects redeploying U.S. troops and supports moving a misguided military strategy from one part of Iraq to another,” he said. “The American people have rejected the president’s Iraq strategy, and it’s time for Congress to end our military involvement in this war.”
Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, Connecticut Democrat, also said yesterday that he would oppose the resolution because it doesn’t call for withdrawing the troops quickly enough.
“I strongly oppose the Warner-Levin legislation,” said Mr. Dodd, who voted in 2002 in favor of the war. “It is essentially an endorsement of the status quo, an endorsement I simply cannot make in light of the dire circumstances in Iraq, and the need for meaningful action now.”
Debate over the resolution angered some anti-war voters who were crucial to Democrats’ victory in the November midterm elections.
“The whole reason so many of us worked for Democratic candidates was so that they would get a majority in Congress and bring the troops home,” said Tina Richards, who described herself as a lifelong Republican from Missouri whose opposition to the Iraq war turned her into a Democrat. “They’re in the majority now, but they won’t bring the troops home.”
She said her son is a Marine reservist who expects to be called up as part of Mr. Bush’s plan to send 21,500 more troops to Iraq.
“It’s pointless. These are nonbinding resolutions, and they won’t do a thing to bring our troops home,” Mrs. Richards said. “This is the definition of insanity; they’re banging their heads against the wall and expecting a different result.”
But the nonbinding resolution was embraced yesterday by several key members of both parties, including Sens. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat, and Chuck Hagel, Nebraska Republican. Both men, like Mr. Warner, voted in 2002 to go to war with Iraq. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat who opposed the war, also signed on to the Warner resolution.
Although both sides agree that there is a majority of support to approve the resolution, there is far less certainty about whether it has the 60 votes needed to overcome any filibuster.
Approval of the resolution will have no real effect on war policy because it’s nonbinding, said Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican, adding that its criticism of the administration’s policy serves only to undermine the war effort.
“We are not simply speaking to the president,” Mr. Kyl said. “Everyone else in the world will get that message. … Those are the words that will resonate around the world.”