Senate Panel Says 'No' to Bush's Iraq Troops Plan

A resolution defying President Bush's plan to send 21,500 more U.S. troops to Iraq is approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. A similar resolution, which is non-binding, has been introduced on the floor of the Senate.

When he went before Congress to report on the State of the Union, President Bush pointedly asked lawmakers to give his plan for more U.S. troops in Iraq a chance to work.

But by a 12-9 vote, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee opposed the president's plan — the first such salvo from the newly Democratic Congress.

Joe Biden, the Democrat who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee, is also a declared presidential candidate. But Biden insisted that the non-binding resolution he co-sponsored saying a troop buildup in Iraq is not in the national interest is meant neither to embarrass nor isolate President Bush.

The measure is meant to express another opinion, Biden said, "to let the president know that there are many in both parties, Democrats and Republicans, who believe that changing our mission to go into Baghdad in the midst of a civil war... is the wrong way to go, and in fact I believe, will have the opposite, emphasize, the opposite effect that the president intends."

But the panel's top Republican, Richard Lugar, was not so sure Biden's measure would really make clear just how opposed many lawmakers are to the troop increase:

"We do not need a resolution to confirm that there is broad discomfort with the President's plan within Congress," Lugar said. "In fact, a vote on this resolution is likely to reveal far less discomfort than actually exists, since some members will vote against it because of its format."

That idea infuriated Nebraska's Chuck Hagel, a Nebraska Republican who's also a decorated Vietnam War veteran:

"There is no strategy, this is a ping-pong game with American lives," Hagel said. "These young men and women that we put in Anbar province, in Iraq, in Baghdad are not beans. They're real lives. And we better be damn sure we know what we're doing, all of us, before we put 22,000 more Americans into that grinder."

Another Vietnam vet, Massachusetts Democrat John Kerry, reminded the panel of a statement he made on Capitol Hill while testifying against that war.

"The question that I asked back in 1971," Kerry said, "which some people have asked me a few times about as I travel around the country, is as relevant today as it was then: How do you ask a man to be the last to die for a mistake?"

Kerry later announced that he would not seek the presidency in 2008 so that he could devote himself to ending the Iraq war. Fellow Democrat Christopher Dodd pushed his colleagues to go beyond the resolution by requiring congressional authorization for any troop buildup.

But other Democrats argued for sticking with Biden and Hagel's non-binding resolution, as a feasible first step toward tougher actions.

In the end, Hagel was the only Republican to vote for the resolution, along with every Democrat on the panel. It now goes to the Senate floor for a debate that is expected to take place next week.

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