WASHINGTON – After weeks of suggesting Democrats would temper their approach to Iraq legislation in a bid to attract more Republicans, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid declared abruptly Tuesday that he had no plans to do so.
The Democratic leader said he will call for a vote this month on several anti-war proposals, including one by Sen. Carl Levin that would insist President Bush end U.S. combat next summer. The proposals would be mandatory and not leave Bush wiggle room, said Reid, D-Nev.
“There (are) no goals. It’s all definite timelines,” he told reporters of the planned legislation.
Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Monday night he would have agreed to turn his summer deadline into a nonbinding goal if doing so meant attracting enough votes to pass. Several Republicans have said they are uneasy about Bush’s war strategy but do not like the idea of setting a firm timetable on troop withdrawals.
Reid’s hardline stance, announced after the party’s weekly policy lunch Tuesday, reflects a calculation by Democrats that Levin’s proposal probably would have failed either way. Democrats hold a thin majority in the Senate, and similar legislation has repeatedly fallen short of the 60 votes needed to break a GOP filibuster.
When asked why Democrats won’t soften the deadline, the majority leader said he doesn’t have confidence Republicans are willing to challenge Bush on the war.
Democrats are in a box on the Iraq war debate, lacking the votes to pass legislation ordering troops home but tied to a support base that wants nothing less. Several Democrats, including Sens. Christopher Dodd, of Connecticut, Russ Feingold, of Wisconsin, and Barbara Boxer, of California, have said they will not vote for anything short of a firm deadline to end the war.
These members say they are responding to polls that show Americans still oppose the war, despite Gen. David Petraeus’ report to Congress and President Bush’s televised address.
A poll released Tuesday by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center found that 54 percent of Americans still favor bringing troops home as soon as possible. And despite slight improvements in peoples’ views of military progress, more said the U.S. will likely fail in Iraq than succeed by 47 percent to 42 percent, about the same margin as in July.