Senators Debate The Troop Surge


As the political debate over the Iraq war intensifies, some Congressional Republicans are joining their Democratic colleagues in opposition to President Bush's plan to send more American troops into the fight. The Republican leadership, however, is standing behind the president.

Appearing on Face The Nation Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Penn., joined Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., in criticizing the president's "surge" of troops.

"I cannot support sending additional troops to Iraq," Specter said. "The plan is not working because it requires Iraq to do some things which Iraq doesn't have the will or the capability to do, and that is to stifle the sectarian disagreements and also to secure Baghdad."

But, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnel, R-Kentucky, said he supported Mr. Bush and will work to prevent the Senate from passing any of the various resolutions which oppose the administration's position.

"What I'll be doing is trying to appeal to my Republican colleagues to not pass a nonbinding resolution that basically says to the troops who are going there this is a mission that doesn't have a chance of succeeding," McConnel told Bob Schieffer.

McConnell said that Republicans would not filibuster any of the resolutions, but the minority party will ask to vote on all of the resolutions at once – meaning it will take 60 votes to pass any one of them.

"I am not certain that any of these will get 60 votes," McConnell said. "We'll find out in the coming week or two."

Specter, McConnell's fellow Republican, said he wasn't sure how he will vote on the Senate's resolutions.

"I'm going to wait until we debate it on the floor," Specter said. "The Senate has a reputation for being the world's greatest deliberative body, and I think we ought to deliberate on it."

Webb, who delivered the blistering Democratic response to the State of the Union on Tuesday night, said the Democrats are not opposed to any one specific plan for the war.

"Having given this administration four years to try to come up with a strategy where there's a clearly articulable end point, which we don't have now, that's the problem so many people have," he said.

He said the new majority is demanding a comprehensive strategy that will work.

"One thing that I've seen over and over again here is that, when things go wrong, they go to the American military," Webb said, "that when all else fails, we decide we're going to throw more military people in, rather than trying to go into the political solutions, which are going to be the way that this is going to be resolved."

Webb said that a regional accord is necessary for there to be peace in Iraq because other countries play such an important role for the various ethnicities within Iraq.

"This is a five-sided problem now. And the way that you deal with a five-sided problem is boldly stepping forward and bringing them to the table so no one is on the outside and forcing some sort of a solution," he said.

While Webb said he was "concerned" about how reconstruction funds were being spent in Iraq, but did not talk about cutting off the funding for the war.

Specter said that it would be premature to talk about changing policy by using the power of the purse.

"Whenever we talk about funding, Bob, we have to have as our base of premise that we'll do nothing to endanger the troops who are there," Specter said. "But there are precedents for cutting off funding – as to Cambodia, as to Laos, as to Vietnam – and in 1974, the legislation required that there be no more than 4,000 troops in Vietnam within six months, and 3,000 within a year. So there are precedents, but we have to handle that very gingerly."

Minority Leader McConnell also left open the door for Congress to control the war by controlling the budgets. He said that this is truly the last chance for Iraqis to "step up and do their part." If progress is not made, the House and Senate will have to re-evaluate.

"When we have the supplemental appropriation – that's the money, that's the real thing – I expect that there will be debates about cutting off funds at that time," McConnell said. "And so the Iraqis can expect--can expect that that debate is going to occur in the House and Senate in the very near future."