Published February 05, 2007
WASHINGTON – Senate Republicans tried to rally support Monday against a non-binding resolution that if passed would amount to a no-confidence vote on President Bush's Iraq 'surge' plan.
The resolution declares that the Senate disagrees with the president's plan and lays out alternatives such as moving troops away from the sectarian violence and closer to the Iraq border to provide territorial integrity.
The measure also urges more regional diplomacy, which Democrats and some Republicans say is key to ending the sectarian violence. In an effort to attract more GOP support, it includes a provision specifically pledging to protect money for troops in combat.
"We have American troops" there, said Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I. "The question is, do we have to put more?"
The top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. John McCain, slammed the resolution and its supporters as wrong and intellectually dishonest.
"I hope they keep in mind that this is fundamentally a vote of no confidence in the people that we are sending on this mission in harm's way. We are telling them, 'we support you but we believe your mission will fail. We don't believe what you're doing,' " McCain said.
"I don't think it's appropriate to say that you disapprove of a mission and you don't want to fund it and you don't want it to go, but yet you don't take the action necessary to prevent it," he added.
Asked about McCain's position, Reed said it is "entirely wrong."
"It's our obligation to try to create a policy that will protect the United States as well as those forces who must implement that policy," Reed told FOX News.
Reed said the majority of Americans oppose the president's plan to send 21,500 more U.S. troops to Iraq. Americans also have a "lack of confidence in the Maliki government" in Iraq as well as the agencies required to secure Baghdad from sectarian violence, he said.
"Most of what is required to secure the situation there are political decisions," said Reed, explaining why a resolution sponsored by Sens. John Warner, R-Va., and Carl Levin, D-Mich., is appropriate.
Reed said the alternative plan is reflected in the Iraq Study Group recommendations calling for a phased redeployment, faster training of Iraqi forces, maintenance of Iraq's territorial integrity and more Iraqi security in Baghdad.
Nebraska Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel said Sunday the resolution would make it clear that the Senate is opposed to the president's policy while still supporting the troops.
"It doesn't say we cut-and-run, does not say we withdraw, does not say we withdraw any funding for troops there," said Hagel, who appeared on ABC's "This Week."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has accused Republicans of trying to dodge the debate on Iraq, saying if the Republican leadership filibusters a bipartisan resolution rejecting the president's escalation plan, it would be an abdication of their responsibility to the American people.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he will continue to negotiate with Reid but that he expects all 49 Republicans will vote "no" on the procedural motions to commence debate on the non-binding resolution. The effect will be a filibuster, preventing the Senate from reaching the 61 votes needed to start the debate.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., called GOP efforts to block a vote on the resolution "obstructionism." Neither a Senate majority nor voters, she said, will tolerate such a delaying tactic.
"If we can't get this done, you can be sure a month or so down the pike, there's going to be much stronger legislation," she said.
Several Democrats want binding legislation to cap troop levels, force a new vote to authorize the war or begin bringing troops home.
To rally Republicans, McCain has offered a separate resolution expressing support for a troop increase and setting benchmark goals for the Iraqi government.
That language, Hagel said, is feckless because it does not state consequences for the Iraqi government if it fails to meet benchmarks for political and military successes.
"What are the consequences? Are we then going to pull out?" Hagel asked. "Are we going to cut funding? Now, that falls more in the intellectually dishonest category."
"We can't change the outcome of Iraq by putting American troops in the middle of a civil war," he added.
The resolution debate comes as the White House and congressional Democrats prepared to square off over war spending.
Bush's new budget on Monday will ask for $100 billion more for military and diplomatic operations in Iraq and Afghanistan this year — on top of $70 billion already approved by Congress for the current year. The budget will call for $145 billion in war spending for 2008.
The spending request covers Bush's new war strategy, including the increase in troops, White House budget director Rob Portman said Sunday.
"It's extremely important that we support our troops," Portman said. He described the requested money as the amount needed "to be sure our troops have the equipment they need, that they are taken care of well."
FOX News' Rudi Bakhtiar and The Associated Press contributed to this report.