WASHINGTON – Congress was poised for a showdown with US President George W. Bush over his reported plans to deploy additional troops in Iraq, with even Republican lawmakers expressing serious misgivings.
Bush briefed legislators on details of a speech he was to deliver Wednesday announcing the plan, and Republican Senator Lindsey Graham confirmed the president was looking at 20,000 new troops in addition to the current 132,000. But Graham stressed the president’s plan was “still a work in progress.”
Democratic leaders have expressed strong opposition to any new deployment and have scheduled a series of hearings on Iraq policy later this week.
Veteran Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy, a longtime opponent of the continuing US military presence in Iraq, said Tuesday he would propose legislation requiring Bush to get prior congressional approval for a new deployment. “My bill will say that no additional troops can be sent, and no additional dollars can be spent on such an escalation, unless and until Congress approves the presidents plan,” Kennedy said. On the eve of Bush’s speech, US government auditors released a grim report card of the American record in Iraq, spotlighting a previous failed US plan for victory and the malfunctioning Iraqi government and security forces.
The Government Accountability Office said the Pentagon had failed to allow proper congressional oversight of Iraqi forces, and warned of an increasing strain on US troops facing repeated tours of duty and shortages of supplies.
In a letter to the president last week, Congress’s new Democratic leaders, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (news, bio, voting record) and House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi (news, bio, voting record), urged the president to reject a proposed “surge” of additional US military forces.
“Adding more combat troops will only endanger more Americans and stretch our military to the breaking point for no strategic gain,” they wrote.
Republicans have expressed tepid support for adding fresh US forces in Iraq, with several lawmakers from Bush’s party opposing the president’s plan outright.
One surprisingly harsh Republican critic, Senator Gordon Smith (news, bio, voting record), said Tuesday that boosting US forces in Iraq would merely extend what has been a failed US policy there.