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Senate Committee Votes to Oppose President’s Iraq Strategy

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved Wednesday a non-binding resolution opposing President Bush's plan to send more troops to Iraq. Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., and Sen. Joseph Lieberman, ID-Conn., debate the resolution and Congress' role in shaping Iraq strategy.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    Two prominent senators are going against the tide within their own parties on Iraq. Connecticut's Joe Lieberman, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, says congressional resolutions could undercut the warriors on the ground. And Nebraska's Chuck Hagel, a Republican, argues that the full Senate should be heard, that if lawmakers want, quote, "a safe job, they should go sell shoes."

    Both join us now. Welcome, gentlemen.

    Senator Hagel, as Ray Suarez just reported, you were the only senator on this committee today who approved this resolution — in fact, you were a cosponsor of it. You heard what Senator Lugar had to say about what the president would do, and Vice President Cheney said today that, as far as he was concerned, that "the resolution won't stop us."

    So what can a resolution force the president to do?

    SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R), Nebraska: Well, first, if, in fact, the Senate passes a resolution, that's rather significant. Let's think about this for a moment, what that does say.

    The United States Senate is part of a co-equal branch of our government. It's worked pretty well for 200 years, Gwen. For a president to step away from that — if, in fact, we would pass a resolution, putting the Senate on record opposing his plan — that's rather significant, and it represents the voices of the people we represent.

    The fact is, on November 7th of last year, there was an election, and I think it's quite clear. Some of the senators who are not back and House members who are not back went down because of one predominant issue, and that is the American people wanted a change in direction, not just on Iraq, but a number of things.

    Politics is accountable. There are consequences to this. The process is accountable. The United States Senate needs to have this debate. We need to be on record. All 100 senators need to step up, explain, if they support the president wanting to insert 22,000 more troops in Iraq, then they should explain to their constituents why they support that. If you don't, explain why not.

    No one wants defeat here. This is a very, very dishonest witch hunt that some are on. Somehow it's either cut and run or defeatist versus send more troops in. No, that's not the debate here.

    We have not had a real, legitimate debate in four years on the most divisive issue facing this country since Vietnam. The fact is, we are already divided. Look at where the American people are on this.

    The president can't sustain a war policy. He can't sustain any policy. He can't govern without the support of the American people. That's why this debate is important.

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