WASHINGTON – To demonstrate their opposition to President Bush's plans for a troop surge in Iraq, Democratic leaders in the House and Senate are considering holding votes on resolutions to deny the Bush administration any money for a build-up of troops in Iraq.
While a resolution — unlike signed legislation — doesn't have the force of law, it would put Democrats and Republicans on record as supporting or rejecting Bush's latest war plans.
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Bush is expected to outline in a White House speech Wednesday night his plan to send 21,500 more troops to Iraq in an attempt to stabilize the country and end the sectarian violence that is tearing the country apart.
The call for more troops — 17,500 to Baghdad and 4,000 to the western al Anbar province, according to a U.S. official — is to be accompanied by an acknowledgement from the president that he should have ordered more troops earlier to secure the country.
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., is scheduled to give the Democrats' official response to the president, which will air after the president delivers his address.
Giving an idea of what Durbin might say, Democrats on Wednesday said they would give tough scrutiny to Bush's plan.
"We will take up the president's policy for a vote. The American people have lost confidence in the president's policy. We're hopeful that tonight he will restore that confidence. We will give his proposal a fair hearing and in our hearings we will establish the ground truth what is happening in Iraq," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday, shortly after meeting with Bush at the White House with other Democratic leaders.
Asked by a reporter if she would vote against funding the increase in troops, Pelosi said: "The issue is, do you support the president's policy. That will be the vote. The Democrats always our troops."
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer earlier said House Democrats are still considering which options to pursue to stop a troop build-up in Iraq, and indicated that every available tool is on the table.
Hoyer said the Democratic caucus decided to wait until the House Armed Services Committee and Defense Appropriations Subcommittee start holding hearings next week before making a decision, but the House could mimic a resolution similar to one being considered in the Senate that would express opposition to funds going for any sort of "escalation" of the military effort in Iraq.
"We will, I think, convene next week and discuss exactly what options we can pursue," Hoyer, D-Md., told reporters. He described the resolution being introduced in the Senate by Majority Leader Harry Reid as "consistent, of course, with most military advice, which indicates that [escalation] will not be a useful step for us to take."
Because the mechanics of the House and Senate differ, Senate Democrats will find it more difficult to bring a resolution to the chamber's floor for a vote. To get an anti-troop build-up resolution on the floor by next week, it will take unanimous consent by the Senate to get off the lobby reform bill — part of the new Democrat-led agenda — that is up for consideration. A senior GOP leadership aide told FOX News, "There will be a Republican objection."
To get past the objection, a filibuster-proof supermajority of 60 senators must support setting aside the lobbying legislation first. In a chamber that currently has only 50 Democrats — South Dakota Sen. Tim Johnson remains in the hospital after brain surgery — it might be impossible for Democrats to win enough Republican votes to succeed, especially since independent-minded Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman has expressed his support for a troop surge.
"Last count, there's nine Republicans who in one way or another say they don't support the surge. Now, whether they'll all hang in there, that remains to be seen," Reid, D-Nev., said Tuesday.
Should the Democrats' resolution make it to the floor for a vote, the Republican aide said it won't sail through without a fight. A Republican alternative to the resolution to support the president's surge plan likely would be offered as an amendment to the Democrats' version.
Democrats this week also outlined a number of other ways they plan to check the president's authority. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joe Biden, D-Del., told those gathered for a panel hearing on Wednesday that he plans to use his committee's power to steer U.S. policy in Iraq.
"Americans know that we are in a mess in Iraq, but instead of arguing about how we got into it, they expect us to help get America out of it," said Biden, who just days ago said he thought Congress was constitutionally limited in its ability to impact the president's command in the war.
"The ultimate question for this committee is the question that will be on the minds of every American tonight as they listen to the president: Will your plan, Mr. President, or any other plan, put us on a better path in Iraq or will it dig us into a deeper hole, with more pain for no gain?" Biden said.
On Tuesday, Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., said a bill he is sponsoring would cut money from the defense budget for troop "escalation."
"Our bill will say that no additional troops can be sent and no additional dollars can be spent on such an escalation unless and until Congress approves the president's plan. Our proposal is a straightforward exercise of the power granted to Congress by Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution," Kennedy said.
Bush is also facing some difficulties within his own party on the Iraq issue. In the House, New Mexico Rep. Heather Wilson issued a letter to the president dated Monday saying she has concluded after her recent trip to Iraq that U.S. interests in Iraq have broadened too far and need to be narrowed. She proposed handing to Iraqis the responsibility for ending sectarian violence.
"The American military should only be used to protect America's vital national interests, under American command, with the resources necessary to win and come home again. . ... We are now pursuing political goals in Iraq that are beyond our grasp at a price the American people are not willing to pay," Wilson wrote.
But the president is not without GOP backers.
After a White House meeting Wednesday, House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio said he believed there is support in the House for the president's plans, despite skepticism.
"I think all of us want what the American people want, and that is victory in Iraq. ... I think the administration has put together a good plan. It is our best shot at victory in Iraq."
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said he was unaware of any votes planned on Iraq policy in the Senate and called the president's plan "courageous and correct."
"We leave Iraq without finishing the job, they'll follow us here, in the streets of the United States," McConnell said, speaking of the terrorists the administration has sought to fight on foreign soil.
And Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., the House chief deputy whip, said he supports additional troops going to Iraq combined with a stepped up effort by the Iraqi government to curb sectarian violence and deal with political and economic problems.
"It is my hope Speaker Pelosi and her party will not play politics with the war in Iraq, and the global war against the terrorists. Withholding funding for our troops may score political points with some, but it endangers our troops and encourages our enemies," Cantor said.
After a meeting at the White House Wednesday afternoon, Nebraska Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson said he appreciated the administration's openness to discussion and consultation with members of both parties.
"I believe that this kind of consultation will go forward because the [although] president makes his announcement tonight, this is an ongoing plan. While it's the structure of a plan, obviously, there will be changes made in its implementation," he said.
FOX News' Trish Turner and Molly Hooper contributed to this report.