WASHINGTON – Democratic leaders, after weeks of delay, Wednesday managed for the first time to bring a binding resolution to the Senate floor that would bring U.S. troops home from Iraq. But Republicans remained confident they could kill the proposal and the White House threatened a veto, raising constitutional concerns.
Democrats want the new proposal to supercede the 2002 resolution that authorized the Iraq invasion. It would restrict troop movements and set March 31, 2008, as a target date to bring troops home.
Republicans had blocked previous efforts on new war resolutions, using parliamentary manuevers. But they allowed the latest version to inch forward, confident they would still kill the proposal. Final resolution could come later this week, and Democrats acknowledged that it is unlikely to become law.
Still, war opponents urged support for the resolution, declaring that the public no longer wants troops in Iraq and that last November’s elections showed voters wanted Democrats to end the conflict.
“Congress authorized this war and it is in our power to bring it to a close,” said Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis., a leading war opponent and supporter of the resolution. “More importantly, we have not just the power but the responsibility to end a war that is draining vital national security resources in pursuit of a goal that cannot be achieved militarily.”
The House Appropriations Committee today will begin consideration of a $125 billion war funding bill that also includes deadlines for bringing troops home. The White House has also threatened to veto that proposal and officials said they had constitutional concerns with that legislation as well.
Wednesday’s threat from the administration on the Senate’s proposal was another sign of how the White House is ratcheting up the pressure on Congress not to adopt language that would restrict the president’s flexibility to conduct the war as he sees fit.
The resolution “infringes upon the constitutional authority of the President as Commander in Chief by imposing an artificial timeline to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq, regardless of the conditions on the ground or the consequences of defeat,” the White House statement said.
The Senate resolution would require a “prompt transition” of the Iraq mission from the current full-scale engagement to three specific activities: protecting U.S. infrastructure and personnel; training and equipping Iraqi forces; and conducting “targeted counter-terrorism operations.” The resolution would require a phased redeployment of troops to begin within 120 days of enactment, with the goal of returning all U.S. combat forces by next March.
Foreign Relations Chairman Joe Biden of Delaware, who is seeking the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, said the 2002 authorization is no longer relevant because it gave Bush the authority to destroy Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and, if necessary, to depose Saddam Hussein – neither of which is still relevant. “If you want to be literal about it, this mission no longer has the force of law,” said Biden.
Republicans contend that Congress has no authority to dictate war policy, and that Democrats are overreaching, possibly dangerously, by attempting to limit Bush’s options. “This is the memo that our enemies have been waiting for,” said Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.