Republicans Soften Stance on Pullout Language
GOP Senators Willing To Let Bush Confront Iraq Timetable Issue
Unwilling to do the White House's heavy lifting on Iraq, Senate Republicans are prepared to step aside to allow language requiring troop withdrawals to reach President Bush, forcing him to face down Democratic adversaries with his veto pen.As E.J.Dionne explains Bush's my way or the highway approach is forcing Republicans to support an unpopular war with elections approaching.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) announced the shift in strategy yesterday, as the chamber took up a $122 billion war spending package that includes a target date of March 31, 2008, for ending most U.S. combat operations in Iraq. The provision, along with a similar House effort, represents the Democrats' boldest challenge on the war, setting the stage for a dramatic showdown with Bush over an otherwise popular bill to keep vital military funds flowing.
Now, Van Hollen argues, Bush's "take-it-or-leave-it" approach to the bill is also "hurting the political standing of his Republican colleagues" in Congress by forcing them to back an open-ended commitment in Iraq at a time when their constituents are demanding a different approach.With 20 Republican senate seats on the line in 2008 and Bush's mis-adventure in Iraq becoming more unpopular everyday the Republicans realize they must break with Bush on Iraq and soon. That's called a timetable. The flap over the firings of US Attorneys will further erode Bush approval and erode his support among congressional supporters. Yes, there is a timetable and everyone knows it. It's sometime before November 2008.
Bush continued his effort to polarize the debate in his weekly radio address Saturday, condemning the House vote as a "political statement" and urging Congress "to put our troops first, not politics" by sending him "a clean bill, without conditions, without restrictions and without pork."
Bush's threat to veto the House bill might be seen as either safe or empty, because the final compromise that emerges from the House and Senate will be different from the measure passed by Pelosi's majority. But the president's uncompromising language and his effective imposition of an April 15 deadline for the funding bill -- after that date, he said, "our men and women in uniform will face significant disruptions" -- may solidify Democratic ranks without rallying new Republican support.