Iraq Study Group Report May Resurface
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
Now, here in Washington, President Bush has signed into law the war spending bill, which came without the troop withdrawal deadlines he had vetoed earlier. The president was forced to accept a series of reporting requirements on benchmarks for Iraqi progress, and the money that the U.S. military receives will only cover the next four months.
Democrats say the war in Washington over the war in Iraq will continue. Here's NPR's David Welna.
DAVID WELNA: Late last week, on the same day Congress sent President Bush its deadline-free spending bill, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi vowed Congressional Democrats would not concede defeat in their struggle to wind down the war. With its benchmark reporting requirements, she said, the bill was a small step forward.
Representative NANCY PELOSI (Democrat, California): But September is the moment of truth for this war. We'll be voting on the defense appropriations conference report, and we'll be voting on another supplemental that the administration has requested. Between now and then, we'll also vote again on a change of mission for our troops, and we will vote to repeal the president's authority for this war in Iraq.
WELNA: September is also when General David Petraeus reports to Congress on how well or badly the U.S. troop buildup in Baghdad has gone. That's when House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer expects more Republicans will break ranks with the president.
Representative STENY HOYER (Democrat, Maryland): You've heard Republican leaders say - high-ranking leaders say that by September we're going to know whether we're succeeding or not, and if we're not succeeding, we need to change policy. I think we're going to get some Republicans on board. I'm certainly hopeful of that.
WELNA: Some strong Republican supporters of the Iraq war now seem to be having second thoughts. Here's Jeff Sessions of Alabama on the Senate floor shortly before he voted for the war funding bill.
Senator JEFF SESSIONS (Republican, Alabama): I just got to say, I am not comfortable and am indeed uneasy with high troop levels sustained in what would be considered an occupation.
WELNA: Indeed, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says Iraq policy is bound to change once the summer's gone.
Senator MITCH McCONNELL (Republican, Kentucky): I think that the handwriting is on the wall, that we are going in a different direction in the fall, and I expect the president to lead it. In other words, I think he himself has certainly indicated he's not happy with where we are, and I think we are looking for a new direction in the fall.
WELNA: And that would not be a moment too soon for Republicans like McConnell and Sessions, who face reelection battles next year, says Texas A&M political scientist George Edwards.
Professor GEORGE EDWARDS (Texas A&M University): By September, election is certainly in the headlights, and the Republicans saw what happened in November 2006. And they lost their majorities. There was disaster in the Senate. And they don't want that to happen again. So they're going to have to be more and more responsive to public opinion, and public opinion seems to be more and more eager to get out of Iraq.
WELNA: Some Republicans already seem to be responding. At least four GOP senators are calling on Congress to make the recommendations of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group official U.S. policy. Leading them is another Republican up for reelection, Tennessee's Lamar Alexander.
Senator LAMAR ALEXANDER (Republican, Tennessee): This is the foremost issue facing our country. The Iraq Study Group Report is the most promising strategy for a solution: getting out of the combat business in Iraq and into the support, equipping and training business in a prompt and honorable way.
WELNA: Prompt enough, he might have added, to avoid having Iraq as a millstone for Republicans in next year's elections. David Welna, NPR News, the capital.
INSKEEP: It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News.
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