Biden says few senators think Bush headed in right direction
WASHINGTON -- Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said yesterday that perhaps only 20 senators believe President Bush "is headed in the right direction" in Iraq.
Biden, a Democrat from Delaware and candidate for the presidency in 2008, dismissed criticism that a resolution opposing a troop buildup in Iraq would embolden the enemy.
"It's not the American people or the US Congress who are emboldening the enemy. It's the failed policy of this president -- going to war without a strategy, going to war prematurely," Biden said on ABC's "This Week."
The Senate's top Republican, Mitch McConnell, cast doubt that a clear majority would be able to coalesce behind one of the many competing resolutions on Iraq. "I'm not certain any" of the proposals will get the necessary votes, he said on CBS's "Face the Nation."
The Democratic-controlled Senate plans to begin debate this week on a nonbinding resolution declaring that Bush's proposal to send 21,500 more troops to Baghdad and Anbar Province is "not in the national interest."
Last week, Biden's committee approved the measure on a near party-line vote of 12 to 9.
In reaction, Bush challenged lawmakers not to prematurely condemn his buildup and Vice President Dick Cheney said the administration would proceed even if a nonbinding resolution won Senate approval.
After the Senate confirmed a new top US commander for Iraq, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said it was "pretty clear that a resolution that in effect says that the general going out to take command of the arena shouldn't have the resources he thinks he needs to be successful certainly emboldens the enemy and our adversaries."
Senate Republicans mostly oppose the committee-passed measure. They are lining up alternatives that express concern about a buildup or in other cases set performance benchmarks for the Iraqi government.
McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said party leaders would not seek to block a vote on the nonbinding resolution with a filibuster. He called a proposed resolution that focuses on benchmarks "the best way to go."
Biden acknowledged that votes in Congress could splinter among several competing proposals but contended that Senate opposition to the buildup was widespread.
"We will have a full-throated debate on this policy," Biden said.