WASHINGTON — Senators warned Thursday that Congress would not allow the Bush administration to complete pending security agreements with Iraq without lawmakers' approval, because of concerns that the pacts would tie the hands of the next president.
The administration is negotiating two agreements with Iraq -- over long-term security strategy and over rules for activities of the U.S. military. Administration officials have said they intend to keep Congress informed about the deals but will not seek explicit approval from lawmakers.
At a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, members said the agreements would be viewed by Iraq as lasting commitments. They said the dispute could lead to a major collision between the White House and Congress before the November election.
Committee Chairman Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) noted that at least two of the presidential candidates disagreed with President Bush on overall Iraq policy.
He warned David Satterfield, the State Department's top Iraq advisor, that "if the president persists in this course, the Congress will insist on a role in approving or disapproving" the agreements. "This is folly!" Biden said.
Sen. George V. Voinovich (R-Ohio) joined in the criticism. "Do you understand what you're up against?" he asked Satterfield. Voinovich said congressional unhappiness had reached the point where "you're not going to get this done."
Satterfield said Iraqi officials were eager to end the United Nations agreement that authorized the U.S. presence in Iraq without the consent of the Iraqi government.
But senators suggested that the administration explore whether Iraqi officials would agree to extend the U.N. mandate for three months so the incoming U.S. administration could examine the agreements.
The administration argued that the government had reached security agreements with more than 80 countries without Senate approval. They said the Iraq agreements would not set troop levels or establish permanent bases.