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Congress Voices Concern over President’s New Iraq Strategy

Democratic senators announced plans Tuesday to push a resolution opposing President Bush's decision to send more troops to Iraq. Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., and Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., discuss Congress' reaction to the initiative.

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  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    Members of Congress now have had a week to digest details of the president's new Iraq plan, gauge reaction from constituents, and make up their own minds, members such as Georgia Republican Phil Gingrey.

    REP. PHIL GINGREY (R), Georgia: I rise today in support of delivering a knockout punch in Iraq, stabilizing Baghdad, securing freedom for the Iraqi people, and dealing a blow for terrorism across the Middle East.

    In the past, we have underestimated the intentions of the death squads and the sectarian violence. Now, we will confront them head on by ensuring we have enough coalition and Iraqi troops, not only to clear pockets of resistance, but to hold them.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    New Jersey Democrat Rush Holt.

    REP. RUSH HOLT (D), New Jersey: The American people want to bring home their loved ones who are in harm's way. The Iraqi people want us to leave so that Iraqis can solve their problems. As former Secretary of State Albright has pointed out, the only ones who want us to stay are those who will leave Iraq when we leave.

    MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, Former Secretary of State: I think Iraq is going to go down in history as the greatest disaster in American foreign policy.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    Albright, secretary of state during the Clinton administration, testified this morning before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, several times calling U.S. policy in Iraq an "incoherent mission."

    But California Republican Ed Royce asked, what happens to the terrorists in Iraq if and when U.S. troops do leave?

    REP. ED ROYCE (R), California: At this point with al-Qaida, does a U.S. withdrawal help or hurt, in your view?

  • MADELEINE ALBRIGHT:

    The American presence is both the solution and the problem. We are providing a lot of security, but at the same time our presence is also a magnet for creating more terrorists and insurgency. And the question is how we get out in a way that does not create worse problems.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    Meanwhile on the Senate side of the Capitol, there was movement on separate Democratic efforts to restrict the president's options in Iraq.

    Connecticut's Chris Dodd, an announced candidate for president, introduced legislation this morning that would cap troop levels at the existing 130,000, while Massachusetts' Edward Kennedy has called for a formal vote to authorize more troop deployments.

    And this afternoon, Democrats Joe Biden and Carl Levin, and Republican Chuck Hagel, introduced a non-binding resolution that flatly states, "It is not in the national interest of the United States to deepen its military involvement in Iraq, particularly by escalating the United States military presence in Iraq."

    SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R), Nebraska: The Congress of the United States has a role to play. I don't believe we have played that role very effectively the last four years.

    The Congress of the United States is Article I of the Constitution. We are a co-equal branch of government. Separation of powers, of course, but the system works best when we join together in a bipartisan effort to try to frame a bipartisan consensus, to deal with the great challenges of our time.

    SEN. JOE BIDEN (D), Delaware: The more we make Iraq a partisan issue, the more likely the president is to dig in, in my view. The more we, we in a bipartisan way, show the American people across the board that we don't want to go down this path of escalation, the better our chances to get him to reconsider his approach.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    Admitting that Senate Republicans are not of one mind on the president's Iraq plan, Kentucky's Mitch McConnell, the chamber's minority leader, simply asked that his members be given a chance to participate in the Iraq debate.

    SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), Senate Minority Leader: … there are sort of a variety of different points of view in the Republican conference about the appropriate response to the president's decision to increase the number of troops in Iraq.

    And we'll be working together to insist on a fair process in the Senate that allows different proposals to have a vote on. That's the one thing I think we're all in agreement on.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    Debate and votes on the various Senate resolutions are expected next week, after the president makes a nationwide pitch for his Iraq plan during his annual State of the Union address next Tuesday.

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