Published February 02, 2007
WASHINGTON – Senators on Thursday continued to align and re-align themselves along with the wording of a non-binding resolution disapproving of President Bush's plan to send additional troops to Iraq. But questions remain about whether any measure has the votes to pass.
On a day when Army Gen. George Casey, the man in charge of troops in Iraq, endorsed the president's troop surge there, the top Democrat and former top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, fashioned a new resolution that "disagrees with the troop surge."
Republican Sen. John Warner of Virginia called the measure "advisory."
"We say to the president, we just urge that you take into consideration the options that we put forth here, the strategy that we sort of lay out, in the hopes it will be be stronger," Warner said.
But some war critics called the resolution much more than that.
"It is a stunning repudiation of the president's misguided strategy in Iraq and it will put the Senate squarely on record in opposition to the surge," said Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass.
The resolution, which also calls for stepped-up diplomacy, is not satisfactory to Wisconsin Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold, or his Connecticut colleague, Chris Dodd, a 2008 presidential candidate.
Feingold dismissed the resolution as too weak. Dodd demanded binding legislation that confronts the president on Iraq.
"This is the U.S. Senate, this is not a city council somewhere. We do have an effect on policy," Dodd said.
Both Democratic lawmakers object to a clause in the new resolution stating that "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."
Dodd said that language would undermine future efforts to end the war.
"I don't know how you can vote for this resolution and vote for that language and then simultaneously be for redeployment of those forces in the coming months," he said.
During the day, Democrats recessed the Senate to huddle privately on the new anti-surge resolution. Most Democrats emerged supportive, but Sens. Barbara Boxer of California and Independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont, said they are still undecided.
Last week, every Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted against an amendment to a different non-binding resolution that would prohibit cutting off funds for the Iraq war. With the exception of Dodd, those same Democrats now will support a resolution opposing the president's plan even though it says no funds for troops will be cut.
The ability to pass a filibuster-proof resolution remains uncertain, but an appearance of confidence came when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that on Monday the Senate will not take up a separate resolution sponsored by Sens. Joe Biden, D-Del., and Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., but will instead debate this latest iteration of Warner's formula.
Sixty votes are needed to avoid a filibuster on the Warner-Levin resolution, and while that is not nearly a done deal, Dodd said that he would vote to cut off the filibuster, thus getting supporters of the resolution one step closer to a straight majority vote. Dodd said he would then vote against the resolution.
In the meantime, Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, a 2008 presidential candidate, introduced a separate non-binding resolution that supports the president's mission. McCain blasted Republicans and Democrats willing to oppose the troop surge but not act to stop it.
"Where is the intellectual honesty if you think that you're sending young Americans in harm's way in a futile effort? If you feel that way — I know if I felt that way — I would say my resolution is a binding resolution that cuts off funding," said McCain, whose measure is co-sponsored by Sens. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.
"We three believe in contrasting the real world of service by American military in Iraq and the world of Senate resolutions that will not stop what is happening in Iraq," Lieberman said. "The best thing we can do is to offer our colleagues a resolution that is an alternative. That reaches for common ground and I think expresses common sense. It aims to do something constructive and unifying."
Cost of Surge Compounded?
While the Senate debates its support for the troops heading to Iraq, the number of forces could be more than stated by the president, according to a report released Thursday by the Congressional Budget Office.
The CBO took a look at the president's call to send an additional 20,000 combat troops into Iraq and concluded that the number does not include an additional 15,000 to 28,000 military support personnel that usually accompany combat brigades. Support forces are made up of headquarters, medical and communications staff, military police, contractors, engineers, intelligence workers and others, the report reads.
The current combat/support ratio for the 15 military brigades stationed in Iraq is about 5,500 support personnel to 4,000 combat troops, the report states. However, military officials told CBO that "it will be both possible and desirable to deploy fewer additional support units." Using that guidance, the CBO then estimated the number to be about 3,000 support personnel per brigade.
The report, requested by Rep. John Spratt, D-S.C., chairman of the House Budget Committee, found that at the lower, 3,000 support staff level, a four-month deployment would cost an additional $9 billion. A 12-month deployment of that number would cost an additional $20 billion and two-year deployment would cost an additional $26 billion.
At the higher staffing level of 5,500 support staff, a four-, 12- and 24-month deployment would cost $13 billion, $27 billion or $49 billion, respectively, the CBO estimated.
Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Brian Maka would not comment on the CBO's accuracy.
"We just received the report.. ... It's premature to say anything about a report we just saw," Maka said.
But Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., said the report is another disturbing estimate of the overall cost of the war in Iraq.
"What the CBO found concerns me. ... The cost of the troop increase could be significantly higher than what the administration has been saying in the press," said Skelton, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.
"If the president proceeds with his plan, thousands more U.S. troops will be at risk, billions more dollars will be required, and there will be a much more severe impact on our military's readiness," added House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., in a written statement.
Separately, FOX News learned that President Bush will ask Congress for more than $700 billion in defense spending in his upcoming federal budget for fiscal year 2008, being sent to Congress on Monday.
A U.S. official said the request will include more than $481 billion to fund Pentagon operations for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, a nearly 11 percent, or $46 billion increase over last year's approved level. Combined with that will be an emergency supplemental request for $234 billion to fight the global War on Terror. That will pay for war costs through much of the rest of this year as well as into 2008, the official said.
FOX News' Major Garrett, Mike Emanuel, Nick Simeone and Greg Simmons contributed to this report.