WASHINGTON – Presidential contender Hillary Rodham Clinton on Thursday sought to force another showdown with President Bush — and her Democratic rivals — over the Iraq war.
Sens. Clinton, D-N.Y., and Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., announced they would introduce legislation that would require the president to seek a reauthorization from Congress to extend the military effort in Iraq beyond October 11, 2007.
"If the president will not bring himself to accept reality, it is time for Congress to bring reality to him," Clinton said in a speech on the Senate floor.
The two senators have not decided how they will seek to force a vote on the measure — whether through an amendment, a stand-alone bill, or a spending bill.
Her tough talk also contained a veiled jab at rival John Edwards, the former North Carolina senator who has been outspoken in criticizing his own vote and that of other lawmakers in 2002 authorizing the war.
Clinton noted on Thursday that in 2002 she had also voted for an amendment offered by Byrd that would have limited the war authorization to one year. The measure was defeated, and Edwards voted against it.
"I supported the Byrd amendment on Oct 10, 2002 which would have limited the original authorization to one year and I believe a full reconsideration of the terms and conditions of that authorization is overdue," she said.
White House spokeswoman Dana Perino derided the proposal and attributed it to posturing for Democratic primary voters.
"Here we go again. The Senate is trying another way to put a surrender date on the calendar. Welcome to politics '08-style," Perino said.
The Democrats are not the first to suggest Congress vote whether to reauthorize the war. Sen. John Warner, R-Va., the former chairman of the Armed Services Committee, floated the possibility months ago, but it has gone nowhere.
Clinton's position on the Iraq war has been a subject of constant debate among Democrats as they weigh the candidates seeking the presidential nomination. She voted to authorize the war, but has long criticized the Bush administration's handling of the conflict. While others have called for an immediate withdrawal, Clinton has favored redeploying troops out of Iraq within 90 days.
She also supports a goal of removing all combat troops except those needed for residual missions by March 2008.
Edwards urged Congress to pass again a bill Bush just vetoed that would have begun troop withdrawals in October.
"Congress should stand its ground and not back down to him. They should send him the same bill he just vetoed, one that supports our troops, ends the war, and brings them home," he said.
Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., said of the Byrd-Clinton plan: "While I applaud this effort, sadly, it will not change the president's course in Iraq."