YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


Rebuke of Bush's war plan gathers more steam

GOP Sen. Brownback joins the bipartisan push to oppose raising troop levels in Iraq.

January 27, 2007|Noam N. Levey | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — Another Republican senator said Friday that he would back the symbolic push to oppose President Bush's plans to increase troop levels in Iraq, further evidence of the growing division within the GOP over the unpopular plan.

Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, a recently announced presidential candidate who once staunchly supported Bush's foreign policy, became the seventh Republican senator to line up behind a nonbinding rebuke of the troop proposal.

Brownback said he favored a measure sponsored by Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.) that expresses disagreement with the president's plan and advocates a less central role for the U.S. military in stopping sectarian violence in Iraq.

Along with Warner and Brownback, three other Republicans and several Democrats have said they favor the resolution.

A more strongly worded resolution opposing the troop plan says, "It is not in the national interest of the United States to deepen its military involvement in Iraq."

It is sponsored by Sens. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) and Carl Levin (D-Mich.). Also backing it is Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine).

Administration officials have dismissed the notion that either resolution would affect decisions on Iraq, and Bush on Friday reiterated his commitment to proceed with his plan.

"I'm the decision-maker," Bush said after meeting with Army Lt. Gen. David H. Petraeus in the Oval Office shortly after the Senate unanimously confirmed him to take command of U.S. forces in Iraq.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates also criticized the congressional efforts to oppose the Bush plan.

"It's pretty clear that a resolution that, in effect, says that the general going out to take command of the arena shouldn't have the resources he thinks he needs to be successful, certainly emboldens the enemy," Gates told reporters. "It seems pretty straightforward that any indication of flagging will in the United States gives encouragement to those folks."

As the haggling intensified in Washington over the Senate's intentions, two of Capitol Hill's most vocal critics of the administration's policies in Iraq -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) and Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.) -- met in Baghdad with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki.

"We stressed our belief that it is well past time for the Iraqis to take primary responsibility for the security of their nation," Pelosi said in a statement issued by her Washington office. "The delegation's view is that American forces should quickly begin to transition from a combat role to one focused on training, counter-terrorism, force protection and controlling Iraq's borders."

Brownback's decision to support Warner's resolution came as Democratic and Republican Senate leaders continued to negotiate over the timing of a much-anticipated debate on the plan unveiled by the president in a nationally televised speech this month.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he anticipates a compromise between the two measures.

But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Friday that he was working on less confrontational alternatives that he hopes to be able to offer when the debate begins on the pending resolutions, perhaps as soon as next week.

Several other GOP senators -- including John McCain of Arizona, a leading champion of Bush's plan and a presidential contender -- have expressed interest in resolutions that would call for specific benchmarks to measure the cooperation of the Iraqi government.

McConnell said he believed that he could build support for "something that makes it abundantly clear to the Iraqis that this is it," and that the U.S. expected them to assume a significantly larger role in cracking down on sectarian violence.

"If we're going to do a resolution at all, I think that's the one part that could conceivably be helpful," McConnell said.

Los Angeles Times Articles