Senators Create Bipartisan Resolution on Bush

Senators John Warner (R-VA) and Carl Levin (D-MI) have reached an agreement to merge their separate resolutions opposing President Bush's troop buildup in Iraq. The decision comes after much maneuvering among the competing Senate resolutions on President Bush's plan for a troop buildup.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

Two stories we're watching for you tonight. On Capitol Hill, Virginia Senator John Warner, a Republican, and Michigan Senator Carl Levin, a Democrat, have reached agreement to merge their separate resolutions opposing President Bush's troop buildup in Iraq. Also, word that syndicated columnist Molly Ivins has died. We'll talk about the legacy of Molly Ivins in a moment.

First today's developments on Capitol Hill. NPR congressional correspondent David Welna has been following the maneuvering over the competing Senate resolutions on President Bush's troop buildup, and joins us now. David, what's the significance of the agreement to merge the two resolutions?

DAVID WELNA: Well, Robert, I think that this means that a resolution that opposes the troop buildup is much more likely to pass the 60-vote threshold needed to stop a filibuster than either of those of resolutions would have by itself. And in fact, Republican leader Mitch McConnell have threatened to use that tool of the filibuster to stop those resolutions from getting passed in the Senate.

He thinks that no resolutions are needed. And I think that that both Carl Levin and John Warner realized that their respective resolutions did not have the 60 votes they would have needed to get past the filibuster and therefore, they finally decided to merge them. Warner had before been saying that he was just going to wait until his resolution got to the Senate floor, and he would let it be amended.

He was resisting in treatise from the sponsors of the other resolution to merge his. But I think that he realized counting the votes that he just didn't have enough votes for this to actually be passed by the Senate. This will be a huge setback for the White House if in fact that resolution were to pass. White House has been working very hard to keep Republicans from defecting and joining those who oppose the troop buildup.

SIEGEL: Well, do we know whose resolution prevailed in the compromise? Or for that matter what the substantive difference was between the two resolutions?

WELNA: Well, I think that in essence, Warner's resolution, which is a more deferential, more mildly worded resolution is that one that prevailed. It added some language, saying that there would be no funding withdrawn from troops who are already on the ground in Iraq. This is something that would probably pull in some more Republicans who were wondering whether they could back this resolution or not.

And it also drops the language from Levin and Joe Biden, and Chuck Hagel's resolution that says it's not in the national interest to have a troop increase in Iraq right now. And at the same time, it drops language in Warner's version that says that there could be a troop buildup in other areas such as in Anbar province. So I think that it's been a certain amount of concession on both sides. But in essence, I think they've moved more towards the middle, more towards Warner's resolution. And this looks like it's the one that's most likely to pickup more votes.

SIEGEL: Now, there are also proposed resolutions, one of them from Senator John Cornyn of Texas, that aim to shore up support for President Bush. What does this mean for them?

WELNA: Well, I think that Cornyn has actually moved more towards the idea of having resolution on setting benchmarks for Iraq. This is something that John McCain has been pushing. And Joe Lieberman - now an independent - has been pushing that idea as well. That's likely to pickup support from - especially those who are allied with President Bush on this. But it looks like this combination of the other two resolutions maybe a tough one to beat.

SIEGEL: And we look forward to the debate of the resolution or these resolutions in the Senate. David, thank you very much.

WELNA: You're welcome, Robert.

SIEGEL: That's NPR's congressional correspondent David Welna.

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