Washington, D.C. - As a Democratic majority in the Senate moves to pass a non-binding resolution to oppose President Bush's plan to send over 20,000 additional troops to Iraq, allies of the Bush administration in the Senate are frantically putting in an effort to prevent a potentially embarrassing rejection of the plan.
Supporters of Bush's plan, including Senators John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, have been involved in a heated debate over how to best handle the backlash by both Democrats and Republicans alike. Their goal is to block two non-binding resolutions directly critical of the White House during a rising period of public unrest over the war.
Some Republican Senators have suggested that opponents of the White House plan risk undermining the military commander in Iraq, as well as Bush. "There is a lot of pressure on people who could be with us not to be with us," said Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine). A large group of bipartisan senators including McCain, Graham, Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), and David Vitter (R-La.), have backed an alternative to that measure that would set benchmarks for the Iraqi government and describe the troop increase as a final chance for the United States to restore security in Baghdad.
At the confirmation hearing for Admiral William J. Fallon, who has been nominated to command American forces in the Middle East, a personal assessment of the situation in Iraq provided no comfort. He said "time is running out" for positive action by the Iraqi government to show it can reduce sectarian violence.
Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee began working on the blocking effort to place new limits on the conduct of the war in Iraq, in a possible attempt to force a withdrawal of American forces. According to The New York Times, Republican senators now appear widely divided over how to proceed. Allies of the White House are attempting to gather at least the 41 votes needed to prevent a vote on the measure under Senate rules. McCain is sponsoring the resolution that would establish benchmarks for the Iraqi government rather than increase troops alone. He said the proposal also "could be fashioned to give Congress more oversight."
Some feel McCain's plan may be a way to keep Republicans from joining resolutions more critical of Bush, and many Republicans have indicated his plan would be preferable to one criticizing the troop buildup outright. At his confirmation hearing, Fallon told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee during his testimony that the United States may have "erred in its assessments of how effectively the new Iraqi government could manage the nation's affairs."
"Maybe we ought to redefine the goals here a bit and do something that's more realistic in terms of getting some progress and then maybe take on the other things later," Fallon said, adding that "what we've been doing is not working and we have got to be doing, it seems to me, something different."
In the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) joined Democrats and asserted that Bush "cannot simply ignore Congressional opposition to his plan to send 21,500 additional troops to Iraq."
"I would respectfully suggest to the president that he is not the sole decider," Specter said, in regards to a statement Bush made before the November election that gave the House and Senate to the Democrats. "The decision is a joint and shared responsibility."