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Dems Ready Resolution Against Iraq War
Associated Press  |  January 17, 2007
WASHINGTON - Senate Democrats working with a well-known Republican war critic are developing a resolution that will declare that President George W. Bush's troop buildup in Iraq "is not in the national interest," said people familiar with the document.

The resolution also would put the Senate on record as saying the U.S. commitment in Iraq "can only be sustained" with popular support among the American public and in Congress, according to officials knowledgeable about the draft.

These officials would speak only on condition of anonymity because the resolution proposal still is being drafted. Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Republican and potential 2008 presidential candidate, is helping Democrats with the wording of the anti-war resolution.

"It is not in the national interest of the United States to deepen its military involvement in Iraq, particularly by escalating U.S. troop presence in Iraq," it says.

The resolution will be co-sponsored by Sens. Carl Levin and Joseph Biden, both Democrats, as well as Hagel. Levin chairs the Armed Services Committee, and Biden the Foreign Relations Committee.

The Senate's Democratic leaders are expected to propose the resolution by Thursday, with debate planned around the same time that Bush delivers his State of the Union speech Tuesday.

Hagel's agreement to help Democrats champion the resolution amounts to a setback to the administration and to Bush, who has argued vehemently that some 21,500 additional U.S. troops are needed to help the Iraqi government calm sectarian violence in Baghdad and Anbar province.

Bush announced on Jan. 10 that he planned to augment the more than 130,000 forces in Iraq with the additional 21,5000 troops.

Earlier, Bush summoned Republicans skeptical of the war to the White House to discuss the issue as Democratic House and Senate leaders maneuver for votes to gauge Republican opposition to Bush's policy.

The White House refused to say who was invited to meet with Bush.

The resolutions in Congress seemed likely to be largely symbolic as they would not affect the Pentagon's war budget or challenge the president's authority over U.S. forces. Such votes, however, could be a warning to Bush that Congress' new Democratic rulers will be more active in their reaction to his war plans than Congress was under Republican leadership.

The resolutions also would help Democrats measure Republican support for more aggressive legislative tactics, such as refusing to provide money to conduct the war.

Such a vote puts many Republicans in an uncomfortable position. They will have to decide whether to stay loyal to an unpopular Republican president and risk angering voters disillusioned by the war or buck the party line.

Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton said Wednesday she thinks there should be a cap on U.S. troops in Iraq, and she wants "to condition American aid to the Iraqis on their meeting political benchmarks."

"I am opposed to this escalation," she said on NBC television. "The Bush administration has frankly failed to put any leverage on this government," said Clinton, considered by many to be the early front-runner for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, even though she has not yet entered the race.

Bush has been trying to sell his revised war plan to the public in a series of television interviews. He told PBS's Jim Lehrer in an interview broadcast Tuesday that keeping his old policies in place would have led to "a slow failure," but withdrawing from Iraq, as some Democrats and other critics suggest, would result in an "expedited failure."

"I am frustrated with the progress," Bush said. "A year ago, I felt pretty good about the situation. I felt like we were achieving our objective, which is a country that can govern, sustain and defend itself. No question, 2006 was a lousy year for Iraq."

Several congressional members from Bush's party have offered only lukewarm endorsements of the president's plan.

Republican Rep. Chris Shays, who scraped by in the November elections while his Republican Connecticut colleagues Rob Simmons and Nancy Johnson lost their seats, said his vote would depend on what Democrats come up with. He said he supports the troop push if there are guarantees offered by the Iraqis that they will reach a political settlement.

Lining up behind Bush in the Senate are Republican stalwarts and a few members who have long backed sending more troops to Iraq, including Sen. John McCain, a probable 2008 presidential candidate.

Acknowledging their party is divided on Iraq, Republican leaders are trying to stave off a showdown in Congress by casting Democratic efforts as a political ploy to embarrass the president.

Republicans also are discussing alternative proposals, including one resolution in the House of Representatives that would promise to keep funding for troops in combat.

The White House cautioned lawmakers about the consequences of voting against a buildup.

"The one thing the president has said is, whatever you do, make sure you support the troops," press secretary Tony Snow said at the White House. "And the question people who support this resolution will have to ask is, how does this support the troops?"

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