Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Senate Hits Bush With Vote of No Confidence on Iraq

The United States Senate yesterday demanded that President Bush provide a coherent Iraq strategy and passed an amendment calling for “changes to the policy of the United States on Iraq and to require reports on certain matters relating to Iraq."

"It is the sense of the Senate that, in order to succeed in Iraq the Administration needs to explain to Congress and the American people its strategy for the successful completion of the mission in Iraq," read the text of S. Amdt. 2518, which passed by a bipartisan vote of 79-19.

“It's not often you see in our legislative halls here in Washington votes of no confidence on an administration," said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid after the vote. "Today you saw a vote of no confidence in the Bush administration's policy on Iraq. Democrats and Republicans acknowledged that staying the course is not the way to go. And, therefore, this is a vote of no confidence on the Bush administration policy in Iraq.”

The amendment further says that the president should issue a report on U.S. policy and military operations in Iraq "...not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, and every three months thereafter until all United States combat brigades have redeployed from Iraq."

The GOP-controlled Senate had earlier defeated a more strongly-worded Democratic bill with the same intent – the big difference being that the Democratic amendment would have required Bush to explain his administration's actions, while the GOP-sponsored measure simply calls for such an explanation.

Even so, the amendment represents a significant rebuke to the Bush administration and a near-unanimous call for less excuses and more real answers. Republican senators are clearly feeling the pressure of severely waning public support for the war and looming mid-term elections that will have all of the House and a third of the Senate up for re-election.

But the thing that Republicans found most unpalatable in the Democratic bill was the paragraph calling for the president to offer a plan for a phased withdrawal of the 150,000 plus U.S. troops now in Iraq.

That would have taken way too much guts on the part of the average Bush-controlled GOP senator. But the message to Bush is still clear, according to Harry Reid: "The no-plan, no-end approach is no longer acceptable."

Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE) called the vote a "significant event" and said that, despite the defeat of the Democratic bill, the Bush administration should begin drawing down troop strength in Iraq next year. He also took the time to scold Bush for his ongoing contention that anyone who disagrees with the administration's Iraq approach is hurting troop morale and "comforting the enemy."

"The Bush administration must understand that each American has a right to question our policies in Iraq and elsewhere, and should not be demonized or condemned for disagreeing with them," Hagel said in a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations. "Suggesting that to challenge and criticize policy is undermining and hurting our troops is not democratic, nor what this country has stood for over 200 years."