WASHINGTON – Senate Democrats are planning a vote on Tuesday that will momentarily refocus the body on a subject that's a bit dicey these days for them — Iraq.
Despite military and some political successes in that country lately, the vote will no doubt be warmly welcomed for opposite reasons by Barack Obama and John McCain.
Neither of the two measures has substantively changed since their first time out. They call for cutting off funds and forcing a change of mission.
The reason for bringing up the vote now? During a big fight late last year over a defense policy bill, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid promised war opponent Sen. Russ Feingold that he would schedule these two votes in the first work period.
This was to talk Feingold out of holding up all legislation, including the adjournment resolution.
Announcing the goals of the bills, Feingold said Monday that troops deployed in Iraq are missing the real threat.
"The primary threat to the United States is in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region," he said. "There is no reason for us to wait another month or even another day to show the American people Congress is determined to focus on those who attacked us on 9/11, instead of draining our resources in Iraq."
S. 2633 — To Provide for Redeployment of the U.S. From Iraq:
— Would require the redeployment of U.S. troops to begin within 120 days of enactment. After 120 days, funding could only be used for counterterrorism efforts, force protection, training and the redeployment of U.S. troops who are not there for those narrow purposes.
S. 2634 — To Provide a Report on a Global Strategy to Combat Al Qaeda:
— Would require the administration to give Congress a report on its global strategy to defeat Al Qaeda.
Were either of the bills to gain traction, they would be a stark change from current military projections.
The Pentagon is projecting that when the U.S. troop buildup in Iraq is over in July there will be about 8,000 more troops on the ground than when the buildup began in January 2007, a senior general said Monday.
Lt. Gen. Carter Ham, operations chief for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters that by July the troop total is likely to be 140,000. That compares with 132,000 when President Bush approved orders to send an additional five Army brigades to Iraq to improve security and avert civil war.
It had been widely expected that some support troops sent to Iraq with the five extra brigades would need to remain, even after July. But until now it was not clear what their number would be.
Ham said it was not possible to know how long troop levels would stay at 140,000. He noted that the Joint Staff and other military organizations are studying post-July troop levels and will make recommendations to Bush this spring.
So far one of the five extra Army brigades in Iraq has returned without being replaced, reducing the number of brigades from a peak of 20 to 19. Ham said the number would drop to 18 in March. By July it will fall to 15.
FOX News' Trish Turner and The Associated Press contributed to this report.