Lawmakers snub Bush’s plea on Iraq

Senate committee adopts resolution which questions Bush’s war policy.

PRESIDENT George W. Bush’s plea for congressional support on his new Iraq strategy fell on deaf ears.

Less than a day after he made the call in his State of the Union address, the influential Senate Foreign Relations Committee adopted a bipartisan resolution – non-binding but symbolically powerful – which slammed his war plans, saying it was “not in the national interests”.

The panel approved the measure by a 12-9 vote that paves the way for a Senate floor debate as early as next week, setting the stage for what could turn out to be the most direct confrontation between the White House and Congress since the Vietnam War.

“My intention was to send the first of many messages – direct and unequivocal – to the President: Stop what you are doing,” said Mr Joe Biden, the committee chairman.

“This is not an attempt to embarrass the President… It’s an attempt to save the President from making a significant mistake with regard to our policy in Iraq.”

Mr Biden crafted the resolution last week with several other Senate members Democrat Carl Levin, and Republican senators Olympia Snowe and Chuck Hagel.

The presence of key Republican figures lent greater significance to the resolution. It was a clear signal to the White House that a growing number of Republicans were now joining the chorus of criticism.

Mr Hagel, a decorated Vietnam veteran and one of the strongest critics of the President’s Iraq policy, said: “We’d better be damn sure we know what we’re doing – all of us – before we put 22,000 more Americans into that grinder. I think all 100 senators ought to be on the line on this.”

The resolution sets up a framework for lawmakers to confront Mr Bush on larger questions about the future of the war and his authority to wage it. Some of the leading Democrats on the committee made it clear they want to go beyond stopping the troop surge and start withdrawing US troops.

Mr Biden said a non-binding resolution was the fastest way to get the debate over the war policy moving, and other measures could be added later.

He warned that his panel was likely to submit tougher, binding legislation, which could force Mr Bush’s hand. He stopped short though of endorsing any sort of funding cuts.

The Democrats were relentless in the criticism of the President after his annual speech to Congress on Tuesday night. They accused him of “recklessly” leading America into war.

The resolution is one of several proposals that attack the troop surge into Iraq. Several others are also being considered, including one by Republican Senator John Warner who opposes the plan and is urging Mr Bush to reconsider his options.

The White House is not budging.

“The President has made his decision,” Vice-President Dick Cheney declared in an interview with CNN, as he bluntly dismissed the no confidence measure.

“It won’t stop us… We need to get the job done.”

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